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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Saranac, Michigan / Ionia State Park Recreation Area, Fred Meijer Grand River Valley Trail

April 2017, 3-nights, Weekday-weekend, Site 13

View from site 13
This was our first visit to Ionia Recreation Area. It looked like a great place to check out in the spring or fall when it is cooler in the Lake Michigan area campgrounds. Also, we stayed over Easter weekend, and Ionia was a reasonable drive from our son's house making it easy for him to visit.

Advance reservations, arrival and check-in

Since this stay was before peak-season, we considered just choosing our site after we arrived to save the $8 reservation fee. There are not many water view sites though, and after I noticed a couple of them had been taken, we decided to make a reservation. We initially reserved site 13 for Friday and Saturday night, and then we called on Thursday to add Thursday to the reservation. 

The camp office was closed when we arrived Thursday evening, and we checked in via the yellow telephone outside the office. I was glad I had called beforehand and taken care of the additional night, or I would have had to provide all the payment information and such during check-in.

Campsite 13

Campsites 13, 15, 18, 22

It was pretty easy to back in on site 13. The site was grassy, and we had a decent view of the lake from outside. From inside, we had a view of the lake out the back window, and the view from our living room looked out toward the trees behind site 15. The online information for this site says that it accommodates a 40' RV. We have a 30' 5th wheel (about 35' overall), and we took up just about the entire site lengthwise. I think it would tight with a 40' RV on this site.

Standing by fire pit on site 13

The ground on site 13 is uneven, and the back of the site has a mild downhill slope. The downhill slope was good after it rained, because the water ran off the site. The uneven ground made it tricky to walk around (the entire site has dips and gullies), and my husband twisted his ankle before the end of our stay. I was getting around in a surgical walking shoe, and I found the ground surface extremely difficult to maneuver.

We looked at some of the other water view sites, and I have included a few photos in this post. Our photos were taken before the trees were covered with leaves, so they look quite different than the ones on the reservation site. Site 15 looked a bit more private than site 13, although the view of the lake was not as good. There was a camper on this site two nights during our stay.

Campsite 18; site 20 to the left
Sites 18 and 22 looked similar to site 15; more private than site 13, without as good a lake view as site 13. All of the sites sloped a little bit, and all of the tar was old with many pits and cracks. It is only $20 to camp in this park, so I cannot really complain about the condition of the tar pads.

Campsite 22
Campsite 22

Campsites along the perimeter of the second loop numbered 51 - 100 are more secluded than the ones along the outside of the loop with sites 1 - 50, and there are larger sites in section 51 - 100.

Recreation: boating, swimming, fishing, hiking, biking

Inside the campground area, there is a horseshoe pit, and a playground near site 49. Site 49 looked like an excellent site, if you have young kids. The playground was easily visible from the campsite, yet they were not butted up next to each other. The campsite is up on a slight hill with trees and privacy.

Map on pole at start of trail by camp office
Hiking and mountain biking trails are accessible from the campground near the camp office. I was recovering from foot surgery during this visit, so we only hiked a short portion of the trail. The blue lines I added to the map above show the trip we made from our campsite, which is designed by the star (click on any photo to enlarge it). This route goes by the lake and picnic area, and it was a little over one mile. Portions of the trail between markers 1 and 3 were muddy and there was standing water. I also added two lines at the top of the map above, as we observed two trails not shown on the map. One had a sign which said Mountain Bike Trail, and the other one was unlabeled. It looks like the trail across from the beach leads to Riverside Dr. where Fred Meijer Grand River Valley Trail is located. We had planned to bicycle that trail; however, my husband twisted his ankle about an hour before we were ready to leave. We are hoping to visit this park again to hike around the lake, and bicycle Fred Meijer Grand River Valley Trail.

Beach; modern cabins and canoes in distance 
The beach and boat launch are on the opposite side of the lake from where the campground is located. There is not really any room to walk or bicycle along the roadway, so I imagine most people drive to the beach. We observed a couple of kayaks and small fishing boats on the lake during our stay. The water was pretty muddy looking, which may have been enhanced by recent rains. We did observe kids swimming in the lake.

Parked at spillway; beach visible in distance

Facilities, sanitation station

I observed only one bathhouse located in the campground next to Host lot 4. It did not seem like the facility would accommodate campers from 100 sites, although I did not go inside to see how many showers were available. There are 40 additional tent sites in the equestrian area, and I imagine some of those campers use the bathhouse facility, as well.

The sanitation station certainly would not accommodate RV traffic on a busy weekend. There are two fresh water spigots and two lanes; however, there is only one dump spot. There were less than 15 RVs in the park at the time of our stay, and we still waited 10 to 15 minutes at the dump station when we departed.

Misc. and overall

We thought the recreation in the park was good, although the campsites in the first loop are a bit small. Some parks have printed maps available in holders outside the park office when it is not staffed, or staff members have them available in the state truck; however, that was not the case at this park. The park ranger drove through the park occasionally, and my husband was able to catch him by the office to request maps. He did not have any in his vehicle, and he went inside the office to get them for us.

View from behind fire pit on campsite 13
I have a few more sunset photos I could not resist sharing below (all from campsite 13). Enjoy! If you find this information helpful, please share this post.