50 Wilderness State Park
| directions and facility information
This beautiful natural area is located on a
long finger of land that protrudes into Lake Michigan on the northwest
tip of the Lower Peninsula. It offers
scenic views of Lake Michigan, the Straits of Mackinac, and the Mackinac Bridge. A diversity of habitats
from the sand dunes and beaches along the coastline to the mixed conifer
and deciduous forest habitat in the interior offer a rich and diverse
selection of plants and animals. On the east end, visitors are greeted by
stands of virgin hemlock trees and second growth red pines that tower
nearly 100 feet into the air. Wildlife watchers will find campgrounds and
an extensive series of trails that provide foot access into the park’s
interior and out to the western tip of the park at Waugoshance
Point. The Lakeview Road
on the south takes you through the Lake Michigan
sand dune habitat and past a great beach. The Wilderness Park Drive on the north
takes you along the north shore and through the typical wooded habitat
found throughout much of the interior of the park.
The endangered piping plover often nests on sandy
beaches. Signs at the park encourage visitors to
protect plovers by staying away from marked areas
when they are nesting and raising young.
Photos: © Wilderness State Park and Phil Seng
Delightful piping plover chicks are balls of fluff
on stilts. Eventually, their bodies will grow to fit
such spindly legs. The chicks blend into pebbles
and rocks on the beach. When threatened,
they may hunker silently to the ground and
wait for danger to pass.
Photo: David Kenyon, MI DNR
The rare piping plover often nests on the
sandy beaches on the south and north edges of the park, particularly
during lower water periods. Portions of these beaches near the plover
nests are closed to foot traffic and dogs during the critical summer
periods of May through August. Please help protect these endangered
shorebirds by staying away from the marked areas when the plovers are
nesting and raising their young.
Gulls and terns, mallards, mergansers, and
loons can be seen from and along the park’s many miles of coastline.
During spring and late summer, migrating shorebirds stop here to feed and
rest. Late April and early May are good times to catch migrating hawks
and owls along these coastal habitats as well as migrating songbirds
later in May. The mixed conifer-deciduous forests host many species of
breeding birds, especially woods warblers, which the park is famous for.
Many species can be seen or heard along the hiking trails and Wilderness Park Drive.
The dwarf lake iris is Michigan’s
and a federally threatened species.
It grows only in special sites near the
shores of the northern Great Lakes.
Rare because of its restricted habitat,
this iris is becoming rarer still because
of shoreland development.
Photo: MI DNR
Common loons and bald eagles both commonly
nest in the park. Wilderness boasts a large population of wild orchids,
including the rose pogonia, grass pink, calypso
orchid, showy ram’s head, and lady’s slippers. Threatened shoreline
species like the Houghton’s goldenrod, dwarf lake iris and pitcher
thistle are also found here. Stop at the park headquarters to learn where
and when the best times are to catch the flowers in bloom, and don’t
forget to ask for the park’s wildflower and bird checklists.
Portions of this area are open to
public hunting. Contact the Michigan Department of
Natural Resources for affected seasons and locations.