Michigan State Parks Centennial: Sterling offers wonderful wetlands

Sunrise picture over Lake Erie from Michigan
The view from our campsite offered a nice sunrise

Sterling State Park lays claim to being the only Michigan state park located on Lake Erie. Practically in Ohio, the park sits at the very southeastern corner of the state near the city of Monroe.

If Monroe sounds even vaguely familiar, it’s because it’s home to River Raisin National Battlefield, the site of the Battle of Frenchtown, a large defeat for the U.S. during the War of 1812. The National Park is located just a short distance from Sterling State Park and can be reached directly via the local trail that starts at the state park.

Marshes and wildlife

man with spotting scope in marsh
Make sure you take along binoculars or a spotting scope to really see the wildlife out in the marshes.

Sterling State Park is known for its series of marshes and lagoons that are home to a vast menagerie of wildlife including muskrat, snakes, swans, herons, carp, turtles, cormorants, many additional bird species and more. The park is named for William C. Sterling who owned some land in this area and had the foresight to see the value in conservation efforts to protect and preserve such land for the health of the environment and for future generations to enjoy.

Unfortunately, for many many years, the surrounding waterways were greatly polluted from industrial runoff from Detroit and Cleveland. At times, it was illegal and dangerous to enter the water. Luckily, environmental cleanup efforts have improved conditions for both humans and animals. We did notice that Lake Erie still had a considerable amount of trash and debris floating just offshore, which is super depressing.

Surrounding the marshes is a paved trail for walking or biking. It’s very popular with both locals and visitors alike for exercising or to stop and view the wildlife. Viewing platforms are strategically placed, and I highly recommend a pair of binoculars. There is so much to see hiding in the marsh that the naked eye just won’t cut it.

woman and man at state park signState Park recreational opportunities

In addition to the marshes, the park’s 1,300 acres offers other recreational opportunities. Over 1 mile of beach is available for sunning or swimming, along with a large grassy space for picnics. A large modern playscape with designated segments for different ages is a hit with the kids.   

Sterling State Park also boasts what I think is the largest public boat launch at a state park. With its access to Lake Erie, it is an extremely popular spot with parking for 250 vehicles. The weekend we visited I was amazed to see it was almost full. We heard from a subscriber of our YouTube channel that many of the fishers were probably out chasing walleye on Lake Erie.

Camping

woman and Class B RV in campsite near beach at Sterling State Park
Jessi appreciated having a beach right behind our campsite.

The campground at the park also is popular. It’s essentially a wide-open field with no trees, but a few sites overlook the beach. We were lucky to snag one that backed up right to the beach, which provided a view of a gorgeous sunrise over Lake Erie.

Of the 256 sites, 79 offer full hook-up with 50-amp electric service and a handful are pull-through sites. Even though the sites have been very strategically arranged and offer no privacy, they are large enough to not be parked right on top of each other so you don’t feel crowded or invaded by your neighbor.

Final Thoughts on Sterling

Sterling State Park is definitely one that you need to spend time at, whether that’s a whole weekend, a week, or just visiting multiple times throughout the year. I could (and did) spend hours just watching the wildlife. We saw plenty of muskrats, herons, swans, cormorants, some fish, a Scarlet Tanager and even three white-tailed deer. If we lived closer I’d be there all the time watching the wildlife change with the seasons.

If you have visited Sterling State Park, what’s the coolest thing you saw there?


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