Michigan State Parks: Tippy Dam Recreation Area

Tippy Dam State Recreation Area is a peaceful spot for camping and fishing located in northwest lower Michigan. It consists of a dam, rustic campground, and day-use area, all along the Manistee River.

The state of Michigan manages Tippy Dam State Recreation Area through a long-term lease with Consumers Energy. The state oversees the campground and day-use area while Consumers Energy operates the 1918 hydroelectric dam.

Originally called Hydro Junction, the company renamed the dam for a Consumers Energy general manager, Charles Tippy.

Consumers Energy operates Tippy Dam to produce approximately 20,000 kilowatts with its turbines. There are warning signs in the river since, due to the dam’s operation, water levels could increase rapidly.

One of the unique things that’s kind of neat about Tippy Dam is that bats use it to roost in the summer, swarm in the fall, and hibernate in the winter. The numbers I saw indicated there are nearly 25,000 bats that call Tippy Dam home.

The Manistee River

Total acreage of Tippy Dam Recreation Area varies, depending on what source you check. Some say it’s 78, others say it’s 117, so we’re going to say it’s about 100 acres.

But really, it’s about the river mostly anyway, not the land.

The Manistee River is what the place is all about. If you enjoy fishing, kayaking, floating around or floating down the river, it’s great. Or if you enjoy hiking, there is a nice river trail where you can spend time listening to the river.

The Manistee River is one of the more well-known and popular rivers in northern Michigan. Downstream of Tippy Dam it is registered as a National Recreation River so it’s clearly a place that people understand and appreciate for its beauty.

Just below Tippy Dam is where the fishermen like to go and that was clear from my time there. There are often a lot of fish to catch and a wide variety. Tippy Dam is a popular place for salmon fishing in the fall. You may find anglers shoulder-to-shoulder trying to bring in those salmon. The state provides a fishing pier with a ramp, making the pier ADA accessible.

Camping at Tippy Dam Recreation Area

There are 40 sites in the campground at Tippy Dam. It is all rustic, which means no electricity and no running water. However, there is a handpump and vault toilets. The sites are a decent size. But many of them are not very level. So, you’re going to see people more with tents or small rigs rather than larger rigs.

Even with the Roadtrek Class B RV we have, I had to maneuver it and put it up on a couple more blocks than we usually do to get level. But I was able to make it work and it’s really quiet in the campground so that’s nice.

I would note that on one side of the campground, the road behind you through the trees is a dirt road. It’s not very busy, but when cars go by you do hear them. They also tend to kick up dust.

On the other side of the campground, the sites overlook the river and the backwaters of the Manistee River. That offers a nice view if that’s what you’re interested in.

Tippy Dam Day-Use Area

Besides the campground, fishing pier and fishing alongside the river, there is a day-use area at Tippy Dam Recreation Area. It has a good-sized parking lot and a number of different little picnic areas right along the river. This is a good place to try your hand as an angler, snag a fish, and then fry it right up at one of the grills and enjoy it at a picnic table overlooking the Manistee River!

So, if you’re looking for a peaceful place near a beautiful river where you can just hang out or maybe try your hand at fishing, Tippy Dam Recreation Area might be a spot to put on your list of places to visit.


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