Michigan State Parks: Onaway

Onaway State Park is one of the oldest parks in the state park system. The state acquired the land from Presque Isle County 1920. It was dedicated as a state park in 1921. Considering we’re celebrating the state park centennial from 1919, you can see why this is one of the early parks.

Walking around the campground, you can tell it was one of the early parks because of the design. It is beautiful there and that’s one of the things that the park is known for. One of the descriptions online said it was picturesque. The terrain certainly does meet that description, with a lot of old trees remaining. Being on Black Lake, it is a really pretty area overall.

Camping Specs

When you are camping at Onaway, you are going to pay the price for the terrain a little bit. It is somewhat uneven; it goes up and down quite a bit in elevation. That means there are a number of sites where you may have some issues with leveling. As long as they’re patient, most people can probably find a spot that works. One of the things to keep in mind is because it is the older state park style, there are a number of spots that are simply too small for modern rigs.

That’s something you should keep in mind when you’re looking at your reservation. The sites don’t have a ton of privacy between them but overall it seems like a quiet little park where I think people just want to come and relax.

The power poles at Onaway are on a centralized pedestal in the central camping area of the upper campground. So up there, four campsites feed into one spot toward the back juncture of the sites. That means that depending on where your plug is for your rig you may need an extension cord. On the outer loop of the upper campground, sites back right up to the woods. Those are good spaces to get more of that rustic feel. But the closer you are to the woods and further away from that center area, the more terrain and elevation change you’re going to deal with. You’re going to have some leveling issues there possibly, depending on the size of your rig.

On the outer part of that campground loop, you still have a shared power pole but there’s one pole that covers two sites. Again they’re going to be toward the back of your site. But on the outer ring, it doesn’t seem like they’re quite as far away from your site because the sites are smaller.

The bathroom facilities at Onaway are in nice shape and they’re clean. They are relatively small and you can tell they have been around for a while. It’s kind of an older design. The main thing is going to be that it is just a small facility. Even though there’s not a lot of campsites here, you may need to be patient on busy weekends.

There are 85 campsites at Onaway State Park. A number of them border the woods and then through the woods is Black Lake. At over 10,000 acres, this is the seventh largest lake in the state of Michigan.

Upper versus Lower Campground

Built in 1923, the lower campground is the older one. The state built the upper campground in 1942. The terrain in the lower campground is a lot more level. Plus, you are right by the lake. There aren’t as many spots in the lower campground, but if you can get one it might be the way to go, assuming your rig fits. The sites are split so some are right on the lake. The other sites are just across the road from the lake but you still have a really nice view.

If there is any downside to the lower campground, it would be that there is no bathroom or shower facility down there. You have to go up to the upper campground if you’re not going to use the facilities in your rig. The original building is closed. It’s in desperate need of repair and there is fundraising going on.

When we talked with former DNR Director Keith Creagh earlier this year, he noted there is a huge backlog of maintenance needs statewide. This is a prime example of something that has been well-used for many years and finally was unable to be maintained properly. Still, if you can get by without having a bathroom and shower facility right near your campsite the views down there are quite impressive.

In addition to the canoes and kayaks that are available at the state park, there also is a small boat ramp where you can put your boat in and enjoy Black Lake. It is well known to be stocked with a lot of different types of fish, including pike, perch, bass, and lake sturgeon if you can find them.

Down near the boat ramp is a day use area where you can enjoy tables and grills. There are some swing sets and a slide for the kids to enjoy. There also is a small bathroom facility there for your use while you’re out enjoying the view of the lake and maybe having a nice little picnic.

I was in the Onaway area to do sturgeon guarding up on the Black River. While I was there, I stopped to see Onaway State Park. It’s really too bad that I was only there for part of a day and didn’t get to really experience the state park fully. I’d like to go back and take Jessi so she can see the beautiful lake and the area.

Onaway State Park this park is a smaller one at only about 150 acres. But it’s got some history to it, as well as a really nice setting. I will be putting it on the list to visit again.

Ocqueoc Falls

Ocqueoc Falls

About 11 miles away is Ocqueoc Falls, the largest waterfall in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Those who have seen waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula or other areas may not be impressed by the waterfall. It’s not very tall but it is in a really pretty setting.

It is a place that people clearly go out to just sit and enjoy. There is a little area with picnic tables and grills. And you can take stone steps right down to the edge of the waterfall. The state has done a really good job of building a concrete pathway from the parking lot out to the area where the falls are located. The state also installed a handicap accessible ramp for folks who aren’t able to take the stairs but still want to get close to the waterfall.

A gentleman I spoke to said that in the summer, a lot of times people will actually walk out into the falls.

One of the great things about our Centennial Trek is that we also have opportunities to check out local places near the parks. Ocqueoc Falls is one of those spots I’m glad I took advantage of visiting.

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We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. (We have a video about Onaway State Park and Ocqueoc Falls 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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