Michigan State Parks: Bewabic

Two people by a state park entrance sign

Bewabic State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula offers a nice getaway for a weekend or longer.

It is a quintessential state park on a small inland lake, with a campground, day-use area, and short nature trails.

Fieldstone wall and state park entrance sign

Bewabic State Park sits on the south side of US 2 along the banks of Fortune Lake, between Crystal Falls and Iron River. It is just a stone’s throw from Wisconsin.

You’ll know you’ve found the state park when you see the large fieldstone wall that lines the entrance along US-2.

But first, a little history

Bewabic State Park is located in Iron County. Around 1918, in the heart of the lumber boom, Herbert Larson, manager of the Iron County Road Commission, purchased a significant amount of land to create wide rights of way and dedicate it for public use. He understood the value of the land and was able to save some of the last stands of virgin timber.

This led to his creation in 1919 of the very first roadside park in America. That park still exists today, though it is a tad bigger than the one original picnic table.

In 1923, Larson purchased a farmstead down the road on Fortune Lake and created Bewabic Park. He established a campground, beach, and picnic area. Between 1933 and 1937, 170 Civil Works Administration workers and 108 Civilian Conservation Corps workers made significant improvements to the park. These improvements included bathhouses and shelters; stone stoves, drinking fountains and grills; a playground; and footpaths. They also expanded the campground and built a bandshell. (You can find more cool history details online.)

In 1966 the state of Michigan purchased the land to expand the state park system.

Today at Bewabic State Park

Since the CCC left in 1937, many additional improvements have been made at Bewabic State Park, but the majority of the park’s structures and layout remain.

For example, one activity only found at Bewabic State Park and no other Michigan state park is a tennis court. It was built by the CCC in 1934 in the picnic area. It is showing its age and sadly has seen better days. The pavement is cracked, the nets are torn, and weeds were everywhere. I’m sure it’s not high on the maintenance list, yet I hate to see something of historical significance rot away.

1933 log bathhouse at Bewabic State Park
Original CCC-built bathhouse

Additionally, the bathhouse and pavilions are still there, though they have been remodeled a few times. The stone fireplaces still dot the day-use area, but also have been supplemented with modern grills.

Located at the end of the day-use area accessible by foot is a small island. Originally more of a peninsula, the CWA dug a canal and constructed a footbridge. On the island is a trail around the perimeter and the remnants of three stone fireplaces from the CCC-era.

Other activities at Bewabic State Park include the beach and swimming area, sand volleyball court, two playgrounds, and a large area with picnic tables. You can also rent fishing poles, canoes, and kayaks to take out onto Fortune Lake.

Around 2.5 miles of wooded foot trails traverse through the state park.

Bewabic State Park Campground

As mentioned, the CCC helped build Bewabic State Park’s original campground loop, now called Loop A. It was designed with campsites around the outside with a large open community area in the center. That layout still exists today, though the trees have mostly filled in the communal area. Dense vegetation between sites offers significant privacy.

Loop B is tucked into the woods and has sites on both sides of the road. While the sites all have electricity, it has more of a rustic vibe with quite a few sites tucked into the trees and up small hills. These sites provide quite a bit of privacy.

Loop C is a mix of woods and wide-open land offering a mix of privacy and communal camping. The state has converted almost all of the sites to 50 amps and the sites can accommodate much larger trailers and RVs. The open, grassy sites would be ideal for large family or friend groups or those who rely on solar power.

Throughout all three loops are a handful of pull-through eyebrow sites, as well as walk-in tent-only sites.

Visiting the local area

If you’re staying at Bewabic State Park, you’ll want to check out the local area as well.

There are waterfalls, mines, museums and more. The area also is great for hunting, cross-country skiing, and ORV use.

In fact, the state park is one of the few state parks that permits ORV use on park roads for “the purpose of loading, unloading and riding from a designated parking area or campsite to access nearby trail networks.”

We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. We have a video about Bewabic State Park here. You can follow us on Instagram, our Facebook page, and Twitter. Plus, you can see our progress as we visit each park on this interactive Google Map. You also can keep track of our activities on social media with the hashtags #hikecampgo and #mistateparks100.

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