Michigan State Parks: Newaygo

Satellite map of Hardy Dam Pond and Newaygo State Park

Newaygo State Park is kind of tucked away in the middle of nowhere and it feels like it when you’re there. But that’s also kind of the point. It’s primarily an old-school rustic campground on the south side of Hardy Dam Pond.

But where exactly is the middle of nowhere? The closest city you might have heard of is Big Rapids, about 20 miles north. Smaller, nearby towns include Newaygo and Morley.

The state established Newaygo State Park in 1966 by entering into a lease agreement with what was then Consumers Power. Consumers built the dam on the Muskegon River creating a 6-mile long reservoir. Today, boat launches, a marina, private residences, and campgrounds surround the impoundment.

Hardy Dam Pond

Ari in front of the Newaygo State Park sign

The Hardy Dam Pond is very popular for watersports of all kinds. You can access it from a boat ramp in the park.

Recreational boating, jetskiing, and water skiing are common activities.

It also is a favorite spot for fishing, especially for walleye, bass, trout, and perch.

Camping and other activities

There are very few amenities or activities at Newaygo State Park.

While there is a small beach area that I saw some little kids headed toward, I think people use it mostly to launch kayaks and canoes. It’s not a very inviting beach for swimming.

There is just one hiking trail. It’s only about a mile and part of it cuts through the campground. However, there is a 3-mile unpaved nature trail nearby that parallels the Muskegon River.

But that’s it for amenities — oh, and the very random 18-hole disc golf course.

The main activity at the park is camping.

The rustic campground at Newaygo State Park has two similar loops. Several water pumps and vault toilets are available but there is no electricity.

One nice thing about both loops is you have a lot of privacy between you and your neighbor since trees and forest growth provide a 20- to 30-foot buffer between sites.

The sites tend to be small, although there are some that are a bit larger. I noticed a Class A RV parked in one site so it can be done. But for the most part, they seem pretty small. I think you’re mostly going to see tents and small rigs. There are some sites small enough that I would be hesitant to even put our Class B RV on them.

Entrance to Newaygo State Park

Newaygo State Park is down a bumpy half-dirt, half-paved road. Once you are in the park you have very little cell phone service. Between my Google Fi phone and our Verizon Jetpack device, I have access to T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon at the park. But I had zero coverage on T-Mobile and Sprint. It tried to connect a couple of times, but it certainly wasn’t reliable. Even Verizon on the Jetpack was struggling. And that’s usually even better than a Verizon phone for pulling in a signal. It had just one bar of LTE service and it wasn’t providing much speed.

Map showing the location of Newaygo State Park

Rustic but worth it

Keep in mind that Newaygo State Park is more of a place to get away from everything. You have very little cell phone service and nice privacy between campsites. You are in the trees a lot so you can set up your tent or your small rig and feel like you’re actually camping — like we used to do traditionally.

Newaygo is one of the more secluded and traditional styles of old-school camping parks that we visited during our Centennial Trek. If you just want to get out and do some traditional camping, enjoy the woods, and have a good excuse for not taking phone calls or doing any work, Newaygo State Park would be one place to go!

We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. We have a video about Newaygo 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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