Straits State Park
|Straits State Park|
Location within the state of Michigan
|Location||720 Church St.
St. Ignace, Michigan
|Nearest city||St. Ignace, Michigan|
|Area||181 acres (0.73 km2)|
|Governing body||Michigan Department of Natural Resources- Parks Division|
Straits State Park is a state park in the U.S. state of Michigan located in St. Ignace, Mackinac County, on the northern shore of the Straits of Mackinac. The Father Marquette National Memorial and park is also located within the state park boundaries. The park is equipped with 255 campsites and offers several ideal locations for viewing the Mackinac Bridge.
Original park boundaries
Straits State Park was established in 1924 as a simple day park with the entrance located at the corner of Paro and Hombach street. In the mid-1940s the park was redesigned to allow for approximately 32 tent campsites along the shores of the Straits of Mackinac. Around this time, the entrance to the park changed to the corner of Paro and Church street.
1950s northern expansion
In the early 1950s the park expanded north and about 90 new campsites were created to accommodate traveling campers and their travel trailers in the southern park along the Straits of Mackinac. The park entrance remained the same as it was easily accessible to travelers arriving in St. Ignace from the Lower Peninsula by way of the car ferry which docked only a half mile east of the park. The new northern land was left undeveloped.
Mackinac Bridge impacts
In the mid-1950s construction began on the Mackinac Bridge and its approaches. The road, however, was designed to cut through the center of the northern park expansion. In a compromise, it was agreed that a pedestrian bridge would be erected over the new road connecting the two parts. However, that bridge was never built. Additionally, original concepts called for a Mackinac Bridge Museum to be constructed at the northern end of the bridge thus cutting away more park land. The land for the museum was allowed to be annexed but no museum was ever built. Currently, it is the Upper Peninsula Welcome Center.
In the mid-1970s the park entrance was moved approximately 300 feet (91 m) north on Church street to its current location, the park restroom facilities were updated, and the lower park was expanded to nearly 130 campsites while the upper park was developed into nearly 145 sites and all site were equipped with electricity. Also at this time, the bridge overlook area and trail to the upper park were created.
Father Marquette National Memorial
In 1975 the decision was made to create a memorial honoring Father Marquette in the park area west of Interstate 75. Again, it was decided to erect a pedestrian bridge across the highway to the park. The memorial and museum opened in 1980 along with interpretive trails, however no pedestrian bridge was created. In 2000 the museum was struck by lightning and burnt to the ground.
In 2003 the Parks Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources green-lighted the updating renovations of the campground. The initial plan called for new restrooms facilities at all 5 bathrooms, and updating each campsite with 20, 30, and 50 amp electrical service and a level camping pad. The park remained closed for nearly the entire 2004 season. When reopening, the public was greeted with two dramatic changes: First, each campsite was renovated with updated electrical demands. Second, the “lake front” lots that were so popular among the public were removed, thus bring the total campsites to 255. It is believed that the bathroom facilities were not updated for three reasons: The 4 main restrooms were not in poor enough condition, the elevated costs of updating the campsites, and the organization restroom facility is officially designated a historic building and required several permits that were too time consuming to obtain before remodeling could take place. Overall, the public continued supporting the park and eventually some “lake front” lots were allowed to reopen.
Park features / activities
- Playground - There are 3 playground areas in the park. One located in the lower park just north of site numbers 48-51. A second located in the upper park located across the street from site number 187 and behind site 216. The third is located in the day use / picnic area.
- Swimming - Although swimming is allowed anywhere in the park, not many participate in this activity. This is due to the lack of actual beach area and the rocky ground of the north straits.
- Picnic Areas - The two main picnic areas are located near the day use parking area and playground, and the bridge overlook. Each area contains several grills, picnic tables, and water fountains.
- Hiking - One trail runs through park with the origin located across the street from site numbers 190 and 225. Approximately 1,000 feet (300 m) from the origin is a spectacular view of the Mackinac Bridge. At this point is where surveyors outlined the construction of the bridge and is believed to be the exact center of the bridge. The trail then continues nearly ¾ of a mile where it intercepts with the North Country Trail. From here you can backtrack the North Country Trail south to the Upper Peninsula Welcome Center or continue on east over the park road and up to the observation tower. The official park trail ends here, however the North Country Trail extends north exiting onto Church street. The park trail is marked with yellow blazes while the North Country Trail is marked with blue blazes.
- Mini Cabins - The park features 2 mini cabins for rent which sleeps four on two bunk beds and are located on either side of the lower parks’ east bathroom facility.
- Bridge Overlook - The overlook is a handicap accessible structure that allows for a side viewing of the Mackinac Bridge. There is a binocular scope available for a small fee that allows for a closer view.
- Organizational Camping - Located in the day use area, this is a primitive camping area set aside for mainly youth organizations. No electricity is available, and the maximum number allowed to camp is 60 per site. There are 2 designated areas, and one over flow area.
Straits State Park is staffed by two full-time park employees consisting of the Park Manager and Secretary, 3 seasonal park employees consisting of a lead Commissioned Park Ranger, Seasonal Commissioned Park Ranger, and a Seasonal Non-Commissioned Park Ranger, and several (7-12) seasonal state workers, mainly recent high school graduates and college students living in St. Ignace, Pickford, and Rudyard. Currently the lead Commissioned Park Ranger is scheduled for 50 weeks of service per year, the Seasonal Commissioned Park Ranger is scheduled for 26 weeks of service per year, and the Seasonal Non-Commissioned Park Ranger is scheduled for 520 hours of service per year. It is believed that once the Non-Commissioned Park Ranger retires the Parks Division will not search for a replacement since the current employee was a seasonal state worker who has worked at Straits State Park for nearly 25 years and was given the status due to the now defunct act 218 of 1919  allowing seasonal state workers to accumulate hours worked and eventually earn a supervisory position as a Non-Commissioned Park Ranger.
- Straits State Park Michigan Department of Natural Resources
- Straits State Park Wildernet
- Michigan Highways 70 through 79 MichiganHighways.org
- STATE PARK COMMISSION Act 218 of 1919 Michigan Legislature