Read the stories about the people, places and events – everything from the auto industry’s impact on outdoor recreation, to tales of Babe Ruth getting caught doing some out-of-season fishing – that helped shape state parks into what they are today.
With the transfer of Fort Michilimackinac (built by the French on the south shore of the Straits of Mackinac in approximately 1715) and parts of Mackinac Island from the federal government to the state of Michigan in 1885, Michigan became one of the first states in the nation to establish a state park.
Beginning in the 1920s, cars became an increasingly popular form of transportation - an especially important trend for park development, as people began to travel in their cars to state parks. After World War II, when car ownership increased further, the interstate highway system brought people, cars and parks closer to each other than ever before.
When the Great Depression hit the country in 1929, it completely ravaged American life, leaving millions on the brink of poverty. In 1933, almost immediately after taking office, President Franklin Roosevelt created several New Deal programs, including the Civilian Conservation Corps, to help address the problem.
In 1922, directors of the Dodge Brothers Co. made one of the largest donations to Michigan's developing state parks system. Eleven parks, totaling more than 600 acres in all, were presented to the state in memory of late brothers and industrialists John F. and Horace E. Dodge, who founded the Dodge automobile company.
Before there were parks, there were people, both settlers and indigenous. Before people, there were non-human features of the landscape, from rocks to reptiles. The Great Lakes region showcases millions of years of social, geological and ecological movements.
Learn about historical events taking place in state parks, including Babe Ruth's arrest for violating Michigan's game and fish laws at Island Lake Recreation Area and Arthur Compton, a world-famous physicist, worked on some calculations for the atomic bomb at Otsego State Park.
World War II brought prosperity with more jobs and more financial security for many workers. But wartime production schedules meant that workers had little time to vacation. Additionally, gas was not readily available for civilian vacations.
Michiganders have always loved their parks. Initially, the state was dependent on gifts of lands by donors. However, by the 1920s, if expansion was to continue, there was a realization that the state would need a long-term funding source to purchase more land. Financing these lands was not always easy.
The 2019 state park centennial celebration is centered around the formation of the Michigan State Park Commission by the state Legislature on May 12, 1919. As the DNR celebrates the 100th anniversary of Michigan state parks system, a natural question arises - what was Michigan's first state park?