Michigan State Parks Centennial: W.J. Hayes

W.J. Hayes State Park is located in the heart of the Irish Hills in southern Michigan. It was one of the original 25 state parks, opening in 1920 with around 200 acres and called Cedar Hills State Park.

In 1930 it was renamed after state Senator Walter J. Hayes after his family made a sizeable land donation in his honor.

Today the park encompasses 654 acres and includes a modern campground, day-use area, two boat launches, a large swimming area, fishing pier, and trails. It is located five minutes from Cambridge Junction Historic State Park and Michigan International Speedway.

Two Lakes

Hayes State Park completely surrounds the 100-acre Round Lake. Round Lake is a no-wake lake which is perfect for fishing and kayaking. The fishing pier is also located here. There are less than 10 parking spots available at the Round Lake boat launch.

According to the DNR, the following fish can be found: Carp, Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Smallmouth Bass, Sucker, Sunfish, and Yellow Perch.

The park also sits on the southern end of the 790-acre Wampler’s Lake. A large parking area with boat launch is available for larger powerboats, and a channel connects the two lakes that can accommodate smaller and lower profile boats.

Wampler’s Lake is popular for all water activities including boating, fishing, tubing, water-skiing, kayaking, and swimming. The day-use area is located along Wampler’s Lake.

If you want to swim or have a picnic, the day-use area is long and large enough to accommodate a sizeable number of people without feeling crowded. Plenty of tables and grills are available, in addition to a rentable pavilion.

The lake seemed pretty shallow for quite a way out, which is a bonus for little kids. The one downside we noticed is there isn’t a beach with sand. This may have been due to the high water levels in 2019. It’s not a park where the kids will be building sandcastles, but there is lots of grass to run around in or toss a frisbee. 

A concession stand is available for food and drink purchases, as well as renting some watercraft rentals such as kayaks, paddleboats, and foam floats.

Campground

Hayes State Park has a 175-site modern campground. Being in the Irish Hills, portions of the campground are hillier than others. Not only does this mean that levelers are going to be in order, but a couple of campground loops are located at the top of a pretty steep hill – for trailer-hauling standards. Be aware of your hauling capabilities and trailer length. And remember to check out the pictures and site details on the reservation website.

The campground was reasonably wooded, providing decent shade, a forest feel, and some privacy depending on the sites. The sites on the outer edge of the loops tend to have more buffer than the inner sites.

Due to its proximity to Michigan International Speedway, the campground is one of the premier local campgrounds on race weekends. If you are heading to the races, this might be the place for you. If you’re not a NASCAR fan, you’ll want to stay clear of the entire Brooklyn area at least twice a summer. Check the MIS calendar for details.

If you’re looking for something else to do, within 5-10 miles are two other state parks. Cambridge Junction Historic State Park provides history on the local area and hosts a farmers market, while Michigan’s newest state park, Watkins Lake State Park and County Preserve, has a 5-mile trail through the woods.

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