Thursday, May 26, 2016

Negwegon State Park: A jewel on Michigan's Sunrise Coast

A look north along the trail toward South Point at Negwegon State Park. A sign for the Pewabic campsite is passed by our group hiking.
So much is talked about when it comes to west Michigan.

The Lake Michigan lakeshore is a beautiful part of the state, complete with wonderful places stretching from New Buffalo to Traverse City. But in all of that talk, the east coast of the state, dubbed the Sunrise Coast, tends to get lost in the mix.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the east coast of Michigan's Mitten. I've gone there for many summers as a child, spending a week a summer in Presque Isle, north of Alpena. That's why I was thrilled to return to northeast Michigan this past weekend while backpacking Negwegon State Park.

Originally named Alpena State Park, the park was later renamed Negwegon State Park after an Ojibwe chief from the 1700s. It's a park that's clearly not visited often: the front sign is very clean and the road to the park looked pristine. We pulled into the lot to find just a few cars there, a sure sign of a quiet weekend. Sure enough, just one other group was camping in the park more than a half-mile away.

Trillium flowers along the trail.
There are four campsites at the park, each at least one mile from the parking lot. Each is located on the shores of Lake Huron, giving wonderful views of the beach. The main trail that leads to the
campsites saw a peppering of wildflowers, including trillium. Saw but one Jack-in-the-Pulpit flower along the trail, though I suspect more will come in the coming weeks. It was a bit swampy along the trail, with some boardwalks constructed along areas of standing water. Trees still remained bare over the weekend, the one preceding Memorial Day.
The Twin Pines campsite.

The campsite I stayed at with part of our group was Twin Pines, which came equipped with a picnic table, fire ring and a rudimentary pit toilet. Over
a small berm of sand was Lake Huron, about 100 feet from the campsite. The lake provided a light breeze, which tried to keep the rash of mosquitoes and gnats that were present this trip.

After some time on the beach where some of the younger members of our group went for a swim (and they picked me up and threw me into the cold, calm water), a hike to South Point capped the day
before cooking dinner. South Point is roughly 2.2 miles from the parking lot, and it also features a campsite nearby, one that looks out into the bay. There are several islands visible from this point, including one that contained, what looked like, hundreds of seagulls. We could hear their cries across the bay as we looked out. The water tower in Alpena was also visible.
The view looking south from South Point.
We had heard from another camper at the park we were at the night before South Point was worth the view. I agree completely, and is well worth even just a day hike to it if not camping locally.

Negwegon clearly doesn't get a lot of visitors. That's a shame. It's a park full of natural, untouched beauty, with breathtaking views of one of the world's largest lakes and first-class camping sites. It's worth it's own visit driving along US-23. If in the area, be sure to stop in and make a reservation at a campsite.

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