Search This Blog

Friday, May 27, 2016

Northern Lower Michigan / Wilderness State Park in Carp Lake, Michigan

May 2016, Weekend-Weekdays, 3-nights, Lakeshore site 88

View NE from site 88
This was our first visit to Wilderness State Park. It looked like there were several great campsites in the Lakeshore section, and we had a difficult time choosing one. I initially looked at the east Lakeshore section, as there are more 30' sites in that area. We then decided upon site 88 in the west section, and made a reservation online a few months in advance. You can find more photos and information about campsites and this park in the Wilderness Park Facebook album.

Arrival and check-in

Getting to Wilderness State Park was about a 10-mile drive along the straits from Mackinaw City. The road from Mackinaw City/I-75 was in pretty good condition, although Cecil Bay Road and M-31 south when we departed were in deplorable condition! 

The office was not staffed when we arrived, and we used the yellow phone to check-in. A sign posted on the building said something about the water not being on, and that water could be obtained from headquarters. We had a full tank of fresh water, so I did not pay much attention to the information during check-in. The sign had been removed when we walked by a couple of days later.

View NW from site 88

Site 88

All of the waterfront sites in the Lakeshore sections have a great view of the straits. Site 88 is sandy with a bit of grass. It is slightly unlevel, although not unmanageable. There was one tree located near the road, which did not present a problem, as the site is wide enough to park sideways. The tree is visible in photos on the Michigan DNR reservation web page.

Site 88 is located next to the playground with a slight hill and a couple of trees between the site and the playground. If you have young children, you would not be able to see them at the playground from this site, and if you do not have young children, the playground activity would not be bothersome.

The electrical service is 20/30 amp, as are all of the sites in this park except for the new RV campground east of Lakeshore campground.

Beach in front of site 88
All of the lakeshore sites along the water have beach access directly in front of the site. The beach is sandy and stoney. During our three-night stay, the water varied from calm to extremely wavy and rough. I suppose some campers chose the Pines campground and Lakeshore sites away from the water's edge to avoid the wind this time of year, as it was not warm in Michigan yet. In fact, it snowed one day during our stay! I recall snow at the end of April before; however, I do not recall ever seeing snow in lower Michigan in May before.

One of the rough water days
A bald eagle flew over our site one morning. We had hoped to see it again and get a picture; however, we only saw him once.

Facilities, other campground sites, sanitation station 

The water spigots in all of the campgrounds were off and covered at the start of our stay. During our stay, the spigots in the Pines and east Lakeshore campgrounds were all turned on. The spigots where we were camping, in west Lakeshore campground, were still covered and turned off when we departed. Apparently, there was some type of problem in this area, as we observed a water maintenance vehicle and a worker working on equipment in this area the morning we departed.
Women's restroom in Lakeshore campground - east section
There was one bathhouse with showers and restrooms in each section of the Lakeshore campground, and a couple of vault toilets. Something must not have been working right in the east end showers because we observed several campers, on different days throughout our stay, drive to the west end showers to use the facilities. We did not visit the facilities in Pines campground. I was surprised to see a partial view of the straits from some of the sites in Pines campground (near site 247). This campground sits up on a bluff, and is surrounded by trees.

As I previously mentioned, many of the sites on the water are not large enough to accommodate a 30' camper. You can see labeled photos of some of the sites in the Facebook album. The sites on the water in the east Lakeshore section (#s 1-75) were shadier than the sites in the west section.

RV park entrance
The new RV area, labeled A-Z on the Michigan DNR reservation site, has water view sites with full hook-up and 50 amp power. The RV campground was not open yet during our stay, although we walked through the area. I heard that it was going to be open by Memorial weekend; however, I could not find any site availability in this area until the end of June. The cost is $45 per night, and there are no photos online yet. We took one overview photo of the entrance area. These sites have a water view, although they are not directly on the beach like the Lakeshore campground sites.

The sanitation station was impressive. It looked newly redone with fresh cement and equipment. There were at least four dump lanes with water. Small trash cans were located next to each lane, and there was a large dumpster in this area.

Recreation - boating, hiking, beach

There is a boat ramp in the park west of Lakeshore campground. We had hoped to bring our small boat because we wanted to boat around the bays and small islands. The temperature, however, was dropping into the 40s during our stay with a chance of snow the day of our arrival. We decided we did not want to boat in that kind of weather, so we settled on hiking some of the 10,000 acres instead. We are planning to bring our boat to this park again during summer weather.

Map along the trail
The hiking trails in this park were well marked and fairly easy. Maps were posted at most intersections, and many of the trails were covered with wood chips. We encountered two places on Swap Line Trail where the trail was covered with water (photos in the Facebook album). We had to do some creative thinking to get through the water, as there was no way around.

The information for this campground shows an icon for a swimming beach. The only beach area we observed, other than the beaches in front of the lakefront sites, were by the playgrounds and the parking area in the RV park. We did not see a public beach, and there is not a beach location noted on the park map.


There are several areas where dogs are not allowed in this park, although I observed a man walking three dogs in one of the off-limit areas when we drove to the end of the peninsula. The cell phone reception in this park was very good. I was surprised that it was better than it had been in Hartwick Pines State Park, since this area is more remote.

Let me know if you have any questions, and please feel free to share this post!