Back in 1921, long before there were rumors of a Great Depression or another world war, long before walking on the moon was anything more than a Buck Rogers story, Baraga State Park opened its 14 original acres to guests and began operating as the first state park in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Today it continues its 90-year tradition of being a staple of the Baraga County community, offering its hospitality to families and individuals who return year after year for the swimming, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and friendly atmosphere.
This year Baraga State Park will commemorate its 90th Anniversary with a camp celebration on Saturday, Aug. 6, at the park, 1300 US-41 South in Baraga. Beginning at 2 p.m., children can help create a mural-sized birthday card. Cake and other refreshments will be served at 6 p.m. The day includes a campsite decorating contest with a birthday party theme. Contest judging starts at 9:30 p.m.
The park is known as a "local" park, with many of its campsites often reserved by Upper Peninsula residents who want to take in the surrounding sites such as the Bishop Baraga Shrine, Sturgeon River Gorge or Canyon Falls; all within an hour's drive of the park.
Historically, little was done to the park until its acreage was expanded. It was modernized in the 1930s with the use of Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers who created park buildings from stone found on local farms, and constructed a lifeguard station and bath house on Keweenaw Bay, as well as many of the park's roads.
Long-time park manager Albert "Chink" Wallin, who supervised the park from 1937 to 1974, was instrumental in initially installing power poles, wiring, and water lines, often with only the help of an assistant, some shovels, a wheelbarrow and a team of horses.
Over the years the park has maintained its original rustic appeal while updating its amenities. Currently, under the supervision of Dan Dowdy, the park offers 115 campsites that accommodate recreational vehicles. There is a sanitation station and volunteers from Baraga "Friends of the Park" are working towards installing WiFi and new playground equipment.
The park staff currently sponsors between six to eight special-event weekends that bring families back each year to renew old friendships and build special memories.
"We hope to be able to see this generation of kids come back with their children," said DNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson, "and Baraga State Park staff will be there waiting to greet them."
For details on Baraga State Park's 90th Anniversary celebration, call the park, 906-353-6558. For reservations, call 1-800-447-2757 or visit www.midnrreservations.com.
The Recreation Passport has replaced motor vehicle permits for entry into Michigan state parks, recreation areas and state-administered boating access fee sites. This new way to fund Michigan's outdoor recreation opportunities also helps to preserve state forest campgrounds, trails and historic and cultural sites in state parks, and provides park development grants to local communities.
Michigan residents can purchase the Recreation Passport ($10 for motor vehicles; $5 for motorcycles) by checking "YES" on their license plate renewal forms, or at any state park or recreation area. Nonresident motor vehicles must still display a valid nonresident Recreation Passport ($29 annual; $8 daily) to enter a Michigan state park, recreation area or state-administered boating access fee site; these can be purchased at any state park or recreation area, or through the Michigan e-Store at www.michigan.gov/estore. To learn more about the Recreation Passport, visit www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport or call 517-241-7275.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.