I enjoyed a few minutes here watching the ice bob up and down with each swell of the lake...quite relaxing...

Rockport State Park

It's not every day that a new state park is christened in Michigan so, when I heard that Rockport had been officially designated a few days prior, it became imperative that I pay the newborn park a preliminary visit. The park is not entirely a new creation. Since 1997 the so-called "Rockport Property" has been managed as a piece of Mackinac State Forest. The decision to create a state park out of this property sprung from the desire to maintain the neighboring Thompson's Harbor and Negwegon State Parks in their current undeveloped status. By creating Rockport State Park, in which future plans include more high-impact development such as camping and boating, it will alleviate the pressure to do the same at the aforementioned parks.

Aside from the commercial reasons to place a park here there are certainly numerous natural and historical reasons as well. The park encompasses 4,237 acres, part of which includes a portion of nearby Middle Island which sits just offshore in Lake Huron. Rocky beaches, sinkholes, and dense forests are a few features that will attract the nature-loving tourist but it's the 300 or so acres that once comprised the site of a limestone quarry operated by Kelleys Island Lime and Transport Company that is perhaps the most curious portion of the park. Upon arriving at the park one is immediately confronted by the huge concrete piers, old tailing piles, and rusting equipment left when the company ceased operations here. The quarry is a well known fossil hunters paradise but otherwise sets in striking, barren contrast to the surrounding woodlands. Nature was certainly dealt a harsh blow here. Aside from a few small, scraggly cedars and ground-hugging junipers very little life of appreciable size has managed to gain a toehold within the rubble-filled floor of the old quarry. My heart simply ached upon seeing it.

So the future of this strange park will be interesting to follow. Untouched natural beauty rarely stands in such stark, proximal contrast to historic abuses heaped upon it within the boundaries of a protected area. To be able to see this place prior to any development is an experience I feel lucky to have had as well as an interesting reference to look back upon after future visits...

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  45.202355, -83.382656

  • Dan Weemhoff (dwhike)

    on February 27, 2014

    Jean, I'd be happy to contribute to the Friends site (if you wouldn't mind crediting me). I've been out of the area for a couple years now so I'm curious how things are progressing...nice to know there's a page I can join now to keep up on things! Thanks for writing!

  • Jean

    on February 27, 2014

    Hi there. I am a member of Friends of Rockport a not for profit organization and I would love to add your photos to our Facebook page and our website.

  • Matt

    on July 30, 2013

    We hiked along the shore there and seen quite a bit of household trash ,I am willing to pick it uip and put it in my dumpster at home ,.I picked up those broken T.V. and computer monitors on the side of road when i left the park a couple weeks ago. but i could use some garbage bags ,as i am limited on my income thank you

  • josh

    on June 21, 2012

    Just wanted to say that I was at the quarry today and the stream and pond in the pictures are loaded with fish...

  • karen

    on May 5, 2012

    I forgot to add that I hiked to the sink holes two weeks ago with some friends and they were amazed at what they discovered at the Rockport park. They thought it was all rock and gravel until we got further back into it. We decided to drive to the Besser Natural area and hike around there rather than follow the old railroad grade. It was a bit chilly, but a nice time of year to enjoy the beauty spring holds here - no black flies to interfer with the journey. Still needs work as I said earlier, but could be a masterpiece in the works.

  • Karen

    on May 5, 2012

    Did you know that the park contains a number of sink holes, streams, amazing, rare wildflowers and that it is connected to the Besser Natural area? There are trails that lead to these locations, yet are unmarked at this time. Many of the locals know about them (and some try to keep it a secret), but the sink holes are amazing and worth the hike in to see them. Once you pass the parking lot and its viewscape of stone and gravel, you will find over 4,000 acres that could be hiked and explored. You can kayak along the shoreline to reach the Besser Natural area or just bob around Lake Huron on a warm spring day. They are forming a Friends of Rockport / Besser Natural Area State Park and I'm sure they would be more than happy to show you around the area (email them at: friendsofrockport@hotmail.com) so you can see the hidden treasures that are there. It is more than an old quarry. Yes, it does need work and signage, but visiting now while it's still in its raw form, makes it more unique, especially when you journey to the backcountry. It is a beautiful hub for the NRTH (Negwagon, Rockport, Thompson's Harbor) State Park system along the US 23, northeastern Michigan route. And I hope you get the opportunity to explore it again. It is worth the trip.

  • kw

    on February 22, 2012

    Totally agree with that last statement! Sure hope they can somehow reclaim nature to itself! --- even if it takes years & years