Department of Natural Resources
In celebration of the department's centennial anniversary, the Showcasing the DNR feature series will highlight one story each month during 2021 that recalls various accomplishments of the department or historical highlights over the past century.
Built in 1832, the tavern served as a wayside inn, bar and post office for travelers on the "Old Chicago Road." In the 1920s, the tavern would find new life as a roadside tourist attraction, and in 1965 it became a Michigan state park.
Within the pages of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park's collection of cabin logbooks – from 23 cabins and yurts across the span of 76 years – is the history of the park, written by the people who took the time to enjoy it.
For decades, City of Detroit foresters industriously labored away in a quaint sawmill within Belle Isle Park until it was shut down over 40 years ago. Now, the 80-year-old sawmill building is getting a new life.
On March 30, 1921, the Michigan Department of Conservation – precursor to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources – was created. Throughout 2021, and especially in March, the DNR is commemorating and celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the department.
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.
Genevieve Gillette, born in Lansing in May 1898, was a trailblazing landscape architect who spent her life trying to expand Michigan's state parks system.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.