Outdoors: Free DNR site weekend is June 12, 13.

June 2, 2021

Outdoors: Free DNR site weekend is June 12, 13.

By Joan Young

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has announced that for Saturday and Sunday, June 12 and 13, both residents and out-of-state visitors can fish, visit state parks and state-managed campgrounds and boating access sites, or ride Michigan’s off-road trails – all for free.

Perhaps the most well-known local sites where one could take advantage of this  are Ludington State Park, Orchard Beach State Park near Manistee, Mears State Park in Pentwater and Silver Lake State Park between Hart and Shelby.  No Recreation Passport will be required for entry. Camping fees will apply.

Mason County lakes with DNR launch sites include Bass, Ford, Gooseneck, Gun, Hackert (Crystal), Hamlin, Hoags, Woodward, Long, Round, and Tallman. 

Other nearby DNR-managed sites include in Lake County: Sulak Landing on the Pere Marquette River, Leverentz Lakes and Bray Creek with camping near Baldwin, Pine Valley Pathway north of Baldwin, and Silver Creek Pathway near Luther, Carrieville SF Campground, and Lincoln Bridge SF Campground are also in Lake County. Reed and Big Star Lakes have DNR access. Also note that Big Leverentz Lake has a handicap access boat ramp.

Manistee County DNR sites also include Healy Lake, Tippy Dam, Stronach Boat Launch, and Canfield Lake

In Oceana County: Pentwater Pathways, Colfax Beach on School Section Lake, the Hart-Montague Rail Trail, Riverbarn access on the Pentwater River, and Crystal Lake. 

These lists may not be complete, but many familiar locations not listed are likely under the management of either a local entity or the Manistee National Forest. This free weekend does not apply to those sites. Don’t confuse DNR sites with locally owned access points or federal ones. The management agency is usually clearly posted on a kiosk.

One of the greatest perks of this free weekend is that the DNR allows fishing without a license. This can be a great opportunity for those who are only casual anglers, or who would perhaps like to take the family fishing for little cost. Note that all other fishing regulations apply.

Keep in mind that access to park a vehicle at DNR campgrounds is free for the two days, but the actual camping fee is not waived. However, day trips to visit these sites would be no-cost.

Although the focus of this column is quiet recreation, state-managed motor trailheads are also free on this weekend, including on the Little O and Big O Trails. Note that some trailheads are federal, which require a different pass. 

If the cost of parking while visiting public recreation areas has kept you indoors, June 12 and 13 are perfect days to get outside.

Next time you renew your vehicles’ license plate tabs, consider getting the Recreation Passport for only $12 (for most vehicles.) They can also be purchased at some other locations with an additional $5 convenience fee. Twelve dollars is an incredible bargain- it gives you year-round access to hundreds of sites across the state and helps support their maintenance. It’s hard to find a better deal for outdoor lovers. 

More information about many of these locations can be found at getoffthecouch.info. The Michigan DNR website has recently undergone changes which may make it difficult to locate information for smaller sites but their address is https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/

Joan Young, who lives in Amber Township, is an avid hiker who has the honor of having been the first woman to hike the entire North Country Trail.

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This story is copyrighted © 2021, all rights reserved by Joan Young, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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