ESCANABA - Spring is here, and that means that camping season is right around the corner. Whether campers are looking for the lodges and amenities of state parks or the cozy feel of a smaller county park, there are many local parks to chose from.
Driving a vehicle into a state park requires a Recreation Passport. The passport, which appears as two small "P's" on license plate registration tags, costs $5 for a motorcycle or $11 for an automobile. However, camping is an extra cost not covered by the recreation passports.
Campers who have not purchased a Recreation Passport from the Secretary of State's Office can purchase a recreation passport at any state park. Passports purchased at parks are small stickers placed in the front windshield on the passenger's side of the vehicle.
Because state parks are park of a system run by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, reservations can be made for any of the state parks by visiting the DNR reservations site at www.midnrreservations.com or by calling the state reservation hotline at 1-800-447-2757.
J.W. Wells, located approximately 30 miles south of Escanaba, offers campers 150 modern sites, three rustic sites, five rustic cabins, and the Bay Stone Lodge.
Modern sites offer electricity, a dump station, water access, and a shower house during the summer months. The park is currently allowing campers to stay on the site using electricity only. Water, showers, and sanitation are not scheduled to be operational until May 17, however, campers can get water from the park's main office before that date.
The cabins and lodge are available to rent year round. The rustic cabins rent for $50 per night and are heated, however, the cabins are not equipped with plumbing or electricity.
The Bay Stone Lodge has electrical access, is fully furnished - everything from towels to dishes are provided for guests - and sleeps 12. A one week rental of the lodge costs $1,090. Unlike other sites at the park, the lodge is only reserved through the park directly and cannot be reserved using the Michigan DNR reservation hotline or website.
"That is a fully furnished lodge - when I say 'fully furnished' I mean the towels are all hung up, the beds are made, and the dishes are in the kitchen," said Peggy Tembreull, park secretary.
Guests of J.W. Wells can also participate in the park's Gas Savings program, which allows campers to leave trailers at the park - even when they are not camping - as long as they will be returning to camp within two weeks.
"They can leave their trailer here for up to two weeks - as long as you know you'll be back in two weeks," said Tembreull.
The park also hosts a variety of events and programs throughout the year including Fourth of July activities, a Pirate Day at the nearby Cedar River State Harbor in July, Christmas in July, and the Spooktacular Halloween and harvest event in late September. However, the park fills quickly for some events so reservations should be made early.
"When in doubt, we encourage people to call the park if they have any questions," said Tembreull, adding that park staff is usually available until 9 p.m. during the regular camping season. Campers can call the park at 906-863-9747.
Fayette Historic State Park on the Garden Peninsula has 61 semi-modern sites available for campers at $16 a night. The sites offer electrical service, access to water, and vault toilets. Pull through RV sites with up to 50 amp service are also available for $18 a night.
"We'll take the pup tent up to the forty-foot motor home," said Fayette Historic State Park Supervisor Randy Brown.
The fully furnished Furnace Hill Lodge is also available at the park. The lodge sleeps ten and includes two full-sized beds, one single bed, one futon bed, and one queen-sized bed.
The lodge rents for $100 a night Sunday through Thursday and $125 a night Friday and Saturday. An $8 non-refundable reservation fee and a two-night minimum stay is required for the site. The lodge can also be rented for any combination of seven consecutive days for $750.
Registrations for the lodge must be made through the park directly and not through the DNR reservation website or hotline. The park can be reached at 906-644-2603.
In addition to a picnic area and beach, Fayette Historic State Park features a historic townsite, which is available for self-guided and guided tours throughout the camping season.
"We've got 19 historic structures. Many of them are set up the way they would have been in the 1880s," said Brown.
All of the structures except for a laborer's cabin are original to the site and were constructed in the 1860s.
"We recommend you give yourself at least two hours for the Historic Townsite. If you like to read, you can spend much longer than that, but at least a couple of hours," said Brown.
For those campers looking for campground with a smaller feel than a state park, Delta County offers camping at O.B. Fuller and Pioneer Trail Parks. Both O.B. Fuller and Pioneer Trail Park are operated by the Delta Conservation District and are scheduled to open May 13.
Camping rates are the same at both parks. For Delta County residents, a modern site rents $24 a night and a rustic site rents $13 a night. Nonresidents pay a slightly higher fee at $26 and $15 respectively.
The 82.46 acre O.B Fuller Park is located south of Escanaba on M-35 with shoreline on Bark River and Lake Michigan. The park features ten rustic sites and 44 modern sites with electric and water, a dump station for registered campers, showers, and flush toilets. Firewood, ice, and pop machines are available to campers.
"This year we also have for rent out there kayaks to take out on Lake Michigan," noted Delta Conservation District Executive Director Rory Mattson.
Pioneer Trail Park, located on U.S. 2 and 41 and M-35, is home to 80 sites with electricity, water, optional cable television, and wifi. Twenty rustic sites are also available onsite.
Pioneer Trail Park also offers campers a dump station, showers, flush toilets, optional cable television, wifi, ice, firewood, and pop machines.
"We will be having a country type store this year with ice cream bars, chips, toilet paper, and that kind of stuff," said Mattson.
Campers at Pioneer Trail park can also rent kayaks, and soon will have access to a new disc golf course being installed at the park.
For campers who are interested in a longer stay at either O.B. Fuller or Pioneer Trail Parks, the Delta Conservation District offers leasing options.
"You can lease for a week of you can lease for a whole season," said Mattson adding that the full camping season runs approximately five months.
Information about parks and or the Conservation District are available online at www.deltacd.org or by calling 906-786-1020.