Michigan State Parks: Rockport State Recreation Area

Ari and Jessi by Rockport entrance sign

Rockport State Recreation Area is the state’s 100th state park. It is located on the shores of Lake Huron, 12 miles north of the city of Alpena.

The park remains largely undeveloped, although it’s been known for years as a premier location for fossil hunting in the state. According to the park supervisor, fossils of prehistoric 9-foot long fish have been discovered here.

The property was once the site of a large limestone mining operation. The quarry walls are very visible and indicate how deep into the earth the company dug. A very tall pile of limestone still sits near the water.

View of old quarry
View of the old quarry from the rim. Nature is starting to reclaim the land.
Large pile of limestone
Leftover limestone still sits near the harbor. It serves as a waypoint for boats on Lake Huron.

When the mining operation ended, local residents realized what had been uncovered – millions of fossils. You can’t pick up or turn over a piece of rock without it containing at least a small fossil.

After the mining operation, an energy company bought the land but ended up turning it over to the state of Michigan in an environmental reparation exchange.

Current state of the park

Rockport State Recreation Area is 4,297 acres. Most of it consists of the old quarry and dense hardwood forest with lots of beech and oak trees.

However, there’s not currently any development at Rockport State Recreation Area except for a small gravel parking lot, boat launch and vault toilet.

A deep-water harbor and portion of the old pier where boats would come to be loaded with rock are still there, and you can see the old pilings in the clear blue water. Locals come here to jump off the pier into the water on hot days.

People standing on a pier
Pier and harbor at Rockport State Recreation Area

A series of trails were plotted out and cleared, but the “psycho porcupines” (as the park rangers refer to them) chewed all the wayfinding signs and picnic tables. As of summer 2019, the signs had not been replaced and rangers do not recommend venturing out on the trails as there is no cell service or maps available if you get lost.

In addition to the fossils, the other significant natural feature of the park is 10 sinkholes. Occurring naturally and exacerbated as a result of the mining operations, the sinkholes continue to form and change. They are located deep into the woods in the middle of the state park and currently are not easily accessible.

Sinkhole at Rockport State Recreation Area
One of the many sinkholes in Rockport State Recreation Area

Future plans for Rockport

The state has developed a land management plan to bring modern development to Rockport State Recreation Area. This could include a rustic campground, modern campground, backcountry camping, and cabins by the lake. Day-use amenities could include watercraft rentals, a picnic area, mountain-biking trails, and equestrian trails. Ranger-led activities might include sinkhole tours or fossil-hunting expeditions. 

Even though there’s not much here yet, Rockport State Recreation Area is on its way to being a premier state park. Once it’s ready with maintained trails, modern facilities and camping this will be a park you won’t want to miss.

You can keep posted on the development of Rockport State Park by visiting the Friends of Rockport Facebook page or the park’s official website.  

We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. (We have a video about Rockport State Recreation Area 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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