Ludington State Park

The current marketing campaign for the State of Michigan is “Pure Michigan”.  Ads like this one feature Michigan native Tim Allen doing the sentimental voice-over narration while the imagery is always during the fall, with the video slowed down and the sun glinting off the water.

It’s marketing, and marketing will tend to show only the good stuff.  As native Michiganders we know the whole story - the failing roads, the abandonment of Detroit, the struggle to recover from a manufacturing-based economy.

But if there is any place in the lower Peninsula of Michigan that more fully embodies the feeling behind “Pure Michigan” it has to be Ludington State Park.

The park has all of the classic Michigan ingredients - Lake Michigan, a lighthouse, dunes, a dam, a river, an inland lake, woods, trails, and deer all compressed into one walkable and bikable state park.  It’s one of the most popular in the state - you can reserve spots six months in advance and if you want to camp there during the prime season you have to be online 6 months to the day of when you want to be there.

I’ve been going to this park for years.  When I was a young boy the state used to allow “snagging” of the salmon that were coming upstream to spawn, as they would die trying anyway. Snagging is where the fisherman uses a 3-sided hook, casts in, then rhythmically yanks the hook while reeling it in, in hopes of catching any part of the fish with the hook.  It was very popular for a few years - so much so that they had to create a lottery system to not have too many people doing it while giving everyone a fair shot.  I remember people lined up and down the banks of the Au Sable river, standing 5-6 feet apart with long poles all jerking at different times.  Some years the take was good - I remember photos of my dad and neighbor posing with dozens of fish laid out before them on the ground.

Over the years we’ve camped here with the kids and I’ve also rented cabins at the park for sabbatical / focused work sessions.  We’ve also just come up for day trips on a nice fall day, having a fire at an unused campsite and doing some hiking through the trails.

This wasn’t a planned stop, but with Michigan fall color approaching peak, a forecast of sunny and mid-70’s this week, and a spare couple of days before having to be home for doctors and dentists appointments we managed to sneak in a two-nighter here.  We cooked out on a rare (for us) campfire, played on the shores of Lake Michigan, hiked our favorite trails (The Ridge Trail / Island Trail loop), watched giant Salmon being caught by the dam, and caught a classic Michigan sunset.

It’s funny - we were on the beach along the Atlantic coast, the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific coast, and the Straights of Juan de Fuca - and all in all we’ll take our home beach any day.  Clean golden sand, fresh water, no smell, no sand fleas, great sunsets - it’s really hard to top the summertime beach appeal of West Michigan. 

Next stop - the last RV park before moving back into our house for the winter!

Lake MI is just over the dune behind the trailer

Lake MI is just over the dune behind the trailer

We must be camping if we have a fire

We must be camping if we have a fire

Mmm...cooked apples with cinammon and marshmallow

Mmm...cooked apples with cinammon and marshmallow

Lake MI Sunset

Lake MI Sunset

Boyink at sunset

Boyink at sunset

Lake MI waves receding

Lake MI waves receding

Lake MI Sunset

Lake MI Sunset

Pedal boats for rent

Pedal boats for rent

Canoes for rent

Canoes for rent

On 'Harrison and Miranda Island'

On 'Harrison and Miranda Island'

Storybird posing

Storybird posing

Lighthouse in the distance

Lighthouse in the distance

It's raining girls!

It's raining girls!

Michigan dunes along Hamlin Lake

Michigan dunes along Hamlin Lake

On the Island Trail

On the Island Trail

Lake Hamlin

Lake Hamlin

Michgan water scene

Michgan water scene

On the Island Trail

On the Island Trail

Fishermen were having a ball at the dam

Fishermen were having a ball at the dam

Storybird examines a fish egg

Storybird examines a fish egg

Perfect spot to read, with not a soul in sight

Perfect spot to read, with not a soul in sight

Except for these two..

Except for these two..

Finding the water table

Finding the water table

Fall scene from the Dunes

Fall scene from the Dunes

The apples of her eyes

The apples of her eyes

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6 Comments Ludington State Park

  1. Picture of DurtKlodDurtKlodOctober 07, 2011

    It’s nice to hear that Lake Michigan is clean.  When we lived in Toledo, we would visit Lake Erie and you never knew if the beaches would be open or closed due to unacceptable sewage levels.  Needless to say, we never swam in Lake Erie.
    I will miss your updates once you return home.  Thank you for taking us all on your trip.

  2. Picture of Beth TarnowBeth TarnowOctober 08, 2011

    Ludington and Hamlin Lake = one of our most favorite places on the earth.

  3. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkOctober 09, 2011

    @dirtklod - I hope we are doing enough this winter to justify continued updates - the reentry process and home sell/rent decision should provide ample fodder.

    @Beth - ours too. We saw great beauty across the country but there will always be something special about West Michigan.

  4. Picture of salguodsalguodOctober 09, 2011

    As you know, we had wanted to camp there this summer, but things were full.  Turned out our camping buddies from WI wanted to come back to OH anyway.  Hopefully we’ll get up there some year.

    @dirtklod - I grew up in Toledo, but never went to the lake when I was a kid.  When my kids were young, about 10 years ago, Mom and Dad were able to get a friend’s cabin on Pelee Island in the middle of lake Erie and we went with them and my sister’s family.  On the beach, facing the East, it was beautiful.  The lake was clean and clear and so shallow I could walk out easily 100 yards and still have my head above water.  Amazing place.

  5. Picture of BoyinkBoyinkOctober 10, 2011

    Ludington is worth the effort - especially if you have tubes/kayaks you can use.  Floating down the river to Lake MI is fun.  Also if you fish.

    Good to hear Lake Erie has pretty spots again as well.

  6. Picture of DeanDeanOctober 12, 2011

    Nutty gorgeous. Love to visit the park someday. Reminds me a lot of northern Minnesota. Ah, the sites of home eh? Enjoy the fall while it lasts brotha.

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