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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Midland County, Michigan / Black Creek State Forest Campground, Sanford Lake, Pere Marquette Rail Trail

June 2016, Weekday-weekend, 3-nights, Black Creek State Forest Campground, Site #21

This was first attempt to camp in a state forest campground since we switched from camping in a pickup truck camper to a fifth wheel. It had been much easier to find a suitable site when camping in a pickup truck camper, because we did not need as much room. Black Creek State Forest Campground says that it has 15 sites that will accommodate a 40' vehicle/camper, so we decided to go on Thursday night, and we hoped for the best.
Path down to water from site 21

Arrival and check-in

Michigan State Forest Campgrounds are not staffed, and they do not take reservations. This campground has three loops with several sites on the water. After driving through all three loops, we settled on site 21 at the east end of the campground. The cost to camp was $13 a night, which we deposited in the locked pole with our registration envelope. You also need a Michigan Recreation Passport to enter this park, which is $11 a year for Michigan residents. Someone must have retrieved the registration envelopes and confirmed registered campers during our stay. Before the end of the weekend, we noticed that our departure date had been written in large lettering with marker on the registration paper we had attached to our campsite pole.

Site 21

Since site 21 is at the east end of the campground, it is the closest site to N. West River Road. This made for the easiest access to Sanford Lake by water; however, we were then also closer to the traffic on West River Road. There are many trees in the entire campground, so the traffic noise was not too bothersome. A camper running his chainsaw for over an hour Saturday evening was considerably more annoying than any traffic we heard!

View of Black Creek from site 21

Site 21 is a spacious site with trees around the perimeter. Most of the site was shaded, although the sun shone directly on our camper for a few hours in the afternoon. The fire pits on the sites on both sides of site 21 were visible when seated at the fire pit on this site. Since there is no electricity in this campground, you could not see much in either direction after dark.
View of site 21 from in front of camper
The path from the campsite to the water was behind the fire pit and pine tree shown in the photo above. It was fairly steep. We were able to easily walk up and down the hill to access our boat and to fish. There was room for two chairs at the bottom of the hill by the water, and we were able to tie up our small boat. I would not want to take kayaks out of the water on this hill, although it would be possible to do so. There was a trail into the woods from this site, and we encountered a bit of bicycle activity when kids cut through the site to the trail.
View of site 21 from the water
Fresh water was available from several spigots in the campground. I observed vault toilets located in each campsite loop, and a dumpster for trash near the entrance.

Sanford Lake, Black Creek, boat launch ramp

The state forest website shows a boat ramp icon for this campground; however, there is not a boat ramp inside the park. If you get a campsite on the water, it would be possible to carry small boats to the water from some of the sites. Our boat was on a trailer, and the only boat launch ramp we could find was at Sanford Lake Park. Sanford Lake Park is just over two miles from the campground, and the daily boat launch fee for non-residents was $12. A bit expensive we thought; however, we could not find any other options. Most of Sanford Lake is surrounded by private homes, and the only other launch ramps we observed were private ones. If anyone is aware of other public launches on the lake, please share! Sanford Lake Park closed at 9:00 p.m., so we had to take our boat out before then, or pay for another day, if we wanted to leave the boat in the water at our campsite overnight. The water in the swimming area, and at the boat ramp, was slimy green, and the ramp area smelled musty. On the plus side, there were a few docks for boaters to pull up to if you needed to wait before pulling up to the boat ramp.

Sanford Lake
Black Creek flows into Sanford Lake, and you can get to the campground by water from Sanford Lake. I had read about the new waterway under N. West River Rd., and some of the building supports had not been removed yet at the time of our visit. The water depth in the center under the road easily accommodated our 15 HP Nissan. There is only room for one boat at a time, as there are rocks under water along the walls. When exiting on the east side (heading toward Sanford Lake), be sure and stay south/right when you come out from under the bridge, as we saw someone run aground who had exited and headed in on the north side. It was not busy any time we went under the bridge, so we did not have any difficulty going through.

Under N. West River Rd.
On Black Creek after going under N. West River Rd.
Sanford Lake in the distance

We saw many people fishing on Sanford Lake and on Black Creek, and I had read that there are many fish in this area.

Pere Marquette Rail Trail, Veterans Memorial Park, Arbutus Bog, North Bradley staging area

Pere Marquette Rail Trail is located about three miles south of Black Creek State Forest campground, with access along W. Saginaw Road. When you head south on West River Road from the campground, posted signs on the road for the parks and trail access are easily visible.
Pere Marquette Rail Trail
We bicycled west on the trail, just past the North Bradley staging area. It was an easy, level ride. It was sunny and hot, and the trail did not provide much shade. This ride was about 14 miles roundtrip. Along this route, we passed Arbutus Bog, Veterans Memorial Park, restrooms, and benches near most crossroads. All of the benches next to the crossroads were in the sun. When we returned, we observed two benches in the shade on the south side; once across from the restroom just east of North Bradley, and one in front of Arbutus Bog trail.
North Bradley park; photo taken from picnic table
The trail map shows a park in North Bradley, a restaurant icon (knife and fork), and lodging. The park in North Bradley consisted of a picnic table under a shelter, bench, porta potty, and the parking lot. An equestrian trail started at the park and headed north. A country store was located across the street; however, we did not observe any restaurants or lodging. We observed a large house for sale next to the trail, which looked like it could have been a Bed and Breakfast. There were no signs on the property or along the trail indicating where the lodging or dining might be located. If there was a restaurant and/or another park in this area, we missed it.
Veterans Memorial Park sign
Veterans Memorial Park is accessible from the trail and 8 Mile Road. This is a good sized park with hiking trails, picnic tables, restrooms, playground, and access to Salt River.

Arbutus Bog
Arbutus Bog walkway

A hard gravel trail, and then a walkway led out to Arbutus Bog. We observed a picnic table and bench on the deck at the end of the walkway in the sun, as well as a couple of benches in the shade along the trail.

We ran out of time before we were able to visit Pine Haven Recreation Area (located west of N. West River Road between the trail and campground). We will save that for a future visit, along with a bicycle ride to Midland on the Pere Marquette Trail.

Let me know if you have any questions or information to share. Feel free to share this post for others!