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DNR to make Craig Lake State Park backcountry campsites reservation-only

All 22 designated backcountry campsites within Craig Lake State Park will transition to reservation-only sites beginning with the 2023 camping season to help combat park natural resource degradation and make it easier to locate campers in emergency situations.

The 2023 backcountry camping season will run from May 20 through Nov. 1, 2023. Reservations are available six months in advance, which means camping reservations will become available beginning Nov. 20, 2022. Reservations can be made at or by calling 1-800-44PARKS.

Annual visitation for Craig Lake State Park has continued to climb the last few years seeing just shy of 69,000 visitors in 2021.

“These changes will help to alleviate some of the natural resource degradation issues that are tied closely to unauthorized, dispersed camping,” said Craig Lake State Park Supervisor Debra Gill. “By visitors being able to reserve the campsites in advance, they can plan their trips and see what sites are, or are not, available. We are hopeful that this will help eliminate the unauthorized dispersed camping we are seeing when campsites are full.”

There are additional benefits of the new policy.

“In emergency situations, being able to look up visitor location information before getting into the field will allow staff to have a faster response time by knowing exactly where we are going,” Gill said. “Because of the remote location of Craig Lake State Park, time is everything when someone needs help, and this will help staff and visitors immensely.”

All backcountry sites are numbered and have either a metal or rock fire ring. The cost to camp is $20 per night for up to six people per rustic campsite.

Backcountry campers will need to visit the campground office at Van Riper State Park to check-in prior to entering the backcountry.

Check-in hours are all posted from noon to 7 p.m. EDT from May 20 through Oct. 1 at the Van Riper State Park campground office. All other times, visitors must use the yellow phone located at the Van Riper State Park campground office.

View the park’s backcountry camping map and information at

For general information on camping in Michigan, visit

A Recreation Passport grants vehicle access to any Michigan state park, boat launch, state forest campground or nonmotorized state trailhead parking. Residents can purchase the Recreation Passport for $12 or ($6 for motorcycles) at the time of Michigan license plate renewal through the Michigan Secretary of State’s office.

Forgot to check “YES” during renewal? Residents and nonresidents can purchase a Recreation Passport window sticker during regular business hours at any Michigan State Park.

Learn more about how the Recreation Passport supports start parks and local outdoor recreation opportunities at

Contact: Debra Gill, 906-339-4461 or John Pepin, 906-226-1352