Gr8LakesCamper: Ludington State Park

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May 21, 2010

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my most favorite magazines is Midwest Living. Every month, the editors do a fantastic job of covering all the great things about the Midwest — with a heavy dose of all things travel-related (lodging, dining, attractions, etc.). The articles are both informative and enjoyable and the design is attractive, but by far the highlight of each issue is the spectacular photography. The recipes section is extremely good.

The May/June issue recently hit our mailbox, and one of its feature stories is their pick for the top state parks each Midwest state has to offer.

Quick aside: As reference to our ongoing debate on what states constitute the Midwest, it’s interesting to note that, at least for this top state parks list, Midwest Living includes as its Midwest states Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

Beginning with this post, I’ll periodically feature each of their selections (although still debating whether to include those from the Dakotas, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska; what do you think?).

Ludington State Park, Michigan

Midwest Living said Ludington State Park, located 100 miles northwest of Grand Rapids, is “busy enough to warrant a rich lineup of amenities and programming – including boat rentals, lighthouse tours and guided dune walks – but large enough, at 5,300 acres, to escape summer crowding. Lake Michigan beckons, cobalt waves washing onto unruly dunes. Eighteen miles of trails hopscotch over bridges and boardwalks along inland Hamlin Lake. A bike path traces the tranquil Sable River, and a 2-mile hike north through wild sands leads to the lighthouse tower at Big Sable Point.”

Ludington State Park is practically an island, as it sits nestled between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake, which was created by loggers at the turn of the last century.

The park boasts over 6 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Here you will find lofty sand dunes, virgin stands of evergreen and hardwood trees, soft, sandy beaches, and an extensive network of hiking, skiing, biking, and canoe trails.

The park’s education and interpretive programming is very popular and offers slide and video presentations, and live programs that can give you a better appreciation of the wildlife, geology, and history of this unique area.

Ludington State Park offers wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities from its 18 miles of trails system. Walk the Skyline Trail for some spectacular views of high dune ridges and Lake Michigan, and hike the Lighthouse Trail to Big Sable Point Lighthouse to sample a bit of Michigan’s maritime history.

Perhaps the most unique trail here is the canoe trail. Brochures at the visitor center show you how to make a unique passage along the bayous and inlets of Hamlin Lake’s shoreline. Slip silently down this trail early in the morning for a high probability of viewing herons, egrets, waterfowl, deer, and other animals along the water’s edge. The Sable River, which flows from Hamlin Lake to Lake Michigan, is just as popular for wildlife and canoeists.

There are three modern campgrounds at Ludington State Park — Pines, Cedar and Beechwood — with a combined total of 355 campsites including three mini-cabins. These sites have electricity and modern shower and bathroom facilities in each campground.

Cedar Campground also has a small loop of eight tent-only sites separated from the modern site loop. These tent sites do not have electricity but are within walking distance of the restrooms and showers. For backpack campers, Ludington offers 10 remote tent sites in the new Jack Pine Hike-In only campground. This campground has no electricity and the toilet facilities are rustic. Showers are available at the Pines modern campground.

My relatives — RV campers, of course — have stayed here many times and it’s easily their top choice when it’s time for camping. Trouble is, Ludington State Park is so good it’s nearly impossible to reserve a site, especially on weekends. And the holidays? Fuggedaboutit. But, in Michigan you can reserve a state park campsite six months in advance, so pick a summer date, and sometime in late winter go online here and stake your claim.

Folks at RV Park Reviews had a few minor complaints, but overall most seemed to really enjoy their stay.

“Large, diverse, and pretty park with lots to do,” said one camper. “There’s a long beach along Lake Michigan for sunbathing, a good-sized inland lake for motor boating and canoing, and a short stretch of river connecting the two lakes for lazily tubing/rafting.”

“Very impressive State Park, well run and well maintained,” said another camper. “Very quiet with a wonderful boardwalk for fishing, walking and bird viewing. Many terrific hiking trails and a very picturesque lighthouse. Great campground if you like the outdoors and wildlife.”

From the Personal Blog: Strawberry pie-eating contests, duct tape parade floats, live jazz & blues, outdoor arts, stilt walkers, cross-country bicycling, washboard music, military encampments and musters and the Memorial Golf Tournament are all sure signs of June in Ohio! Click here to read the whole thing.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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  7. Richard Henning

    Anything east of Wisconsin & Iowa is a eastern state. Speeking from Minnesota.

  8. Duffer

    Hey Gus,
    Appreciate your post.
    Used this site for quite a while and at first experienced the same dissolution of my contributions if I waited too long. They fixed it, though. To the right of the stupid code, they have two buttons, the bottom one of which will refresh the code just before you submit your writing. That way, you’ll have a new captcha to enter. Also, just for insurance, I normally highlight then copy my text before I send it by using ‘Control_C’. Then if you really lose the site, you can restore it by using ‘Control_V’.

    I lived in the Midwest for over 45 years, and traveled to both coasts often for business. Regarding your comments about average New Yorkers, I’ve met a few, too.

    The “average” New Yorker works a succession of entry level jobs, lives three people in a 775 sq. ft. 1-bedroom apartment that they pay rent of around $2,500 per month for, can’t afford a garage, even if they could afford a car. They deal 24/7 with obnoxious smells, sirens, horns, roaches, screaming, yelling, crowding, garbage strikes, heating system failures, brown water in the faucets and wall-to-wall pushy people at restaurants, movies, stores, and transportation ports. The average New Yorker can’t say “you”, “the”, or “those”, instead saying youse, da, and dose. The average New Yorker is incapable of getting to Palm Beach or anywhere else without taking a cab to JFK or another nearby airport. The average New Yorker thinks the Catskills are a family of entertainers somewhere outside the city. The average New Yorker claims to know all about French films, but doesn’t know that they are made outside the USA. The average New Yorker thinks that the Bronx, Queens, Long Island are long summer escape trips.

    Of course, these are just silly stereotypes of the type you mentioned that New Yorkers have of anything on the far side of the Hudson. But seriously, thank God that Capt. Sullenberger kept it in the river, otherwise the whole planeload would have been eaten by savages.

    For the last 20 years I’ve lived in the South. Several companies have moved their corporate headquarters from the NY area to Dallas incuding JC Penny, and those folks think they’ve gone to heaven, not the ‘country’. LOL


    This is a beautiful area – but the timeline for good weather is pretty short. It is either cold or blistering hot in the summer. (I lived in Michigan for 3 years before the weather sent me to California)

    Good article.

  10. David

    Grew up in Michigan, U-M, but have taught at U-Kansas twice as long as I lived in Michigan. Kansas thinks Midwest, until maybe halfway across – it’s 400+ miles from Missouri to Colorado. Sometimes it’s called Middle West out here. Michigan, Ohio, etc. think they are the only Midwest, yet they stay on Eastern Time, so . . . I enjoyed your tour of Ludington. I have mostly driven past, from the Traverse City to family in Holland. I find the state parks are booked up in other places as well. I stayed one night in Wilderness State Park by just dropping in with good luck, not a weekend of course.

  11. Thank you for comments! I will definitely include every park Midwest Living highlighted from every state.
    @Eldon – I called the park and they said they do not have any full hook-up sites. They have about 10 sites in Beechwood section with 50 amps. They also suggested calling 1-800-44-PARKS to get site specifics for your 36-foot 5ver.
    @Gus – My brother and his family live in Manhattan, and I know exactly what you are saying.
    @TallGuy – What I don’t like about this whole Big Ten expansion thing is they’re doing it based on revenue potential for the Big Ten TV Network. If only Notre Dame would wise up…

  12. Gus Jones

    I had a comment but missed the stupid code and said go back which promptly erased my comment. I ended my comment with – How you could possibly omit MO & KS from the Midwest I can not believe. Maybe Nebraska
    In any event, aside from any Govt. allocation where one lives is a perception by inviduals. As a transplanted schoolboy in Malden Massachusetts from Missouri I was considered as being from the West and looked upon as almost being an Indian. The average New Yorker perceives most people living East of the City as being from the country..

  13. TallGuy

    I’m not sure why there needs to be a debate on which States are in the Midwest as long as you use the definitiion that the US Commerce Department, The US Department of Transportation, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and many other official organizations use. Namely, that would be the definition developed long ago by the US Census Bureau, which has long assigned each State to one of four Regions. Those assigned to the Midwest are OH, MI, IL, IN, WI, MN, IA, MO, ND, SD, NE, and KS.

    Otherwise, you might be accused of trying to claim a State that belongs to one of the other Regions the way the Big Ten has been ogling some of our schools down here in the South Region. LOL

  14. Gary

    Please include them all. Each state has important histories that need to be told. Do not neglect any, just because they may be underpopulated. We have visited most, but the things you find are very different. IE: Moline Minn. (I think it was) has a zoo with an Elephant. It was 30 below 0 and the river was frozen. But the zoo had an Elephant!!!

  15. Eldon

    Great review!! Keep em comin. And yes please include the Dakotas, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Do you know if the RV sites at Ludington State Park are full hookup, if the electric is 50 amp and if they are large enough for a 36 ft 5ver?