State Parks Centennial: William G. Milliken

Woman near lighthouse at Milliken State ParkThe William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor is located in the heart of downtown Detroit, Michigan. You wouldn’t think you would find a state park located in a big city. But there are actually three state parks located in Detroit. In addition to Milliken, you have the Outdoor Adventure Center located right across the street. (Watch for an upcoming video and blog post on that.) Then there is Belle Isle, which we will be visiting at a later time — hopefully this summer when the fountain is up and running and we can see the aquarium.

Locator map of Milliken State Park in Detroit

Milliken is Michigan’s first urban park, specifically designed to be a green oasis in the middle of the city. Despite only being 31 acres, it gives Detroit residents a place to get away, enjoy a picnic, or just experience some green space. In addition to being a state park, Milliken also is a state harbor that includes a 52-slip marina.

Fun fact: Across the river is Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Many years ago, the Detroit Police Department used one of the docks to chase down rum runners. Those scoundrels were trying to bring alcohol in from Canada during Prohibition in the United States.

It has been a few years since the bankruptcy of the city of Detroit. That was a tough decision to make but it really was the right one. Look at what has happened there. Things are coming back — you can see and feel the life returning to downtown.

A big part of that resurgence is redeveloping the downtown business district and the riverfront. The Riverwalk has improved and is connected directly to Milliken State Park, as well as a large city park close by.

Because the Riverwalk is available for several miles, there always seems to be people out using it. Even on the cold March day we were there, a lot of people were walking their dogs, riding their bikes, or just going for a stroll.

Don’t have a bike? No problem. Detroit offers several different modes of transportation, including bike rental stations. You can use a credit card to rent a bike from one location and drop it off at another rack somewhere else in the city. One of those bike racks is located conveniently right outside of Milliken State Park.

As part of the rebirth of  Detroit, the city is taking out many blighted old buildings and houses. They’ve also built something known as the Dequindre Cut. It was an old rail line used to take supplies and equipment from the river into the city. The train line is gone so they’ve turned it into a bike and walking path that starts across the street from Milliken State Park.  At 2 miles long, it basically goes from the riverfront into the city and the neighborhoods. It’s a great way to connect pedestrians and bicyclists to the river while not having to worry about vehicle traffic.

Detroit is definitely making a comeback. It got a lot of bad press for many years, but it’s really turning around. There are new restaurants in the downtown business district and an awesome Farmers’ Market. There are a lot of entertainment options, including the new Little Caesars Arena — home to the Detroit Red Wings as well as a shiny new concert venue.

Interior of Little Caesars Arena in Detroit

In addition to the Red Wings, the other three major sports teams — the Lions, Tigers, and Pistons — are all playing in downtown Detroit instead of out in the suburbs. That hasn’t happened in many years and it’s nice to see the teams return home.

It has been great to see the city center start to come back. We think we will start to see that growth move into the neighborhoods, too. The neighborhoods of Detroit and many of its residents are still struggling. But the city is really trying to make an effort to turn the whole place around and it is happening in stages. Hopefully, that will continue so the Motor City can once again be one of America’s great destinations the way it was years ago. 


We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. (We have a video about Milliken State Park published there.) 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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