The Michigan State Parks system turns 100 years old in 2019. This is part of an ongoing series of blogs about Michigan’s State Parks. This blog was updated with current alcohol restrictions August 8, 2021.
For me, camping/cabin trips and alcoholic beverages go hand in hand. Whether that involved hauling in some vodka and powdered drink crystals in a backpack and making a one-mile hike to the Jack Pine hike-in campground at Ludington State Park, or enjoying pint-sized cans of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale while watching a gorgeous Lake Michigan sunset at Mears State Park (the sunset was so incredible that people applauded when it was over) or having some drinks in solo cups while participating in a wake for a dead young moose at Tahquamenon Falls State Park – alcohol is indeed a great part of enjoying nature and the out-of-doors with friends and loved ones. Since you’re not driving anywhere, what could be better than a “sleepover” in a state park and enjoying some drinks by a camp fire – or by the shores of a lake or river?
Me on the shores of the Tahquamenon River in July, 2010. A young moose had drowned earlier in the day in that river, and a large group of campers converged on the scene, sharing their memories of the moose – thus turning it into an impromptu “wake.” The rivermouth unit of Tahquamenon Falls State Park includes a modern campground with flush toilets, electricity and showers – and is just a short walk away from a rustic campground, where many of the sites overlook the river.
There were only two times we decided to camp where alcohol was verboten, and that was at Yankee Springs Recreation Area, which is about a half hour south of Grand Rapids. The first time was in the late 1990s with a group of friends, and the second time was in the mid 2000s when it was just my husband and I. Does this mean we didn’t drink on the trip? No! It just means we were more…careful about it. We’ve since decided it’s just not worth the effort and haven’t been back to the park to camp ever since.
I’ve speculated about WHY parks have these rules, and my “guess” is that if a park has rules regarding alcohol? There is probably a good reason for it! People do some really, really stupid things when they’re drunk – which can be exacerbated by the presence of stimuli such as camp fires, motorized watercraft and children running around all willy-nilly. If you ever hear a drunken (and probably shirtless) yahoo exclaiming loudly, “Hold my beer?” RUN! Chances are you’re not going to want to witness what happens next (though you really, really do want to see it)!
If you are going to drink in a “no alcohol allowed” park, my first advice is….don’t do it! It’s not worth the risk of getting caught, which could be a fine. I saw a ranger in the day use area at Brighton Recreation Area dump out someone’s booze (the horror…wasted booze)! But if you do decide you’re going to break the rules anyway, here are some suggestions (which you should NOT follow):
- Pour your drink into an unbreakable cup with a lid – preferably an insulated cup
- Find a discreet place in which to pour your drink into the cup (under cover of a trunk of a car, for example)
- Speaking of discreet, the same thing applies to YOU. Don’t draw any undue attention to yourself and your party. Even if you are a drunken redneck, DON’T act like one – if you are successful, you could win an Oscar for your performance (LOL)!
- Don’t leave empty containers littered around your camp site or picnic table if you’re in a day use area – even if the containers contained non-alcoholic beverages (not wise to draw undue attention to your camp site or picnic site in any way).
- Don’t be too obnoxious (act as if you went to a party after a high school football game, had some drinks, but have to hide your drunkenness from your folks)
- Be friendly to rangers on patrol, but not TOO friendly – if a ranger walks by your site while on patrol, use that opportunity to pour your next drink – it will take him or her a while to come around to your location again.
- Don’t do ANY of these things! Alcohol is against the rules (tsk, tsk)!
On the first dry Yankee Springs camping trip, there were some “junior rangers” who were definitely on the prowl for people breaking the rules! We jokingly called them the “Junior Gestapo.” In addition to being stalked by the power-loving teenagers (they even followed us when we walked down by the lake so our talking wouldn’t bother other campers), other highlights of that trip included Sam chasing raccoons away from a containers of cookies I made (the Rubbermaid container had claw marks on it afterwards), and torrential rains – which put our tent to the test. Since the cheapo Spalding tent didn’t hold up so well, it was replaced with a beefier REI model a few months later. We’ve had that REI tent since 2000, and though it’s getting a bit long in the tooth, it’s still been a trouper – even in heavy rains. Pro tip – if you’re really serious about camping, don’t go too cheap on your tent purchase.
Michigan state parks with alcohol restrictions (including boating sites)
You may not possess or consume an alcoholic beverage within the following described locations April 1 through Labor Day without written authorization of the park manager:
- Fort Custer Recreation Area – entire park.
- Holly Recreation Area – day-use areas south of McGinnis Road.
- Island Lake Recreation Area- day-use areas in park, excluding rented shelters.
- Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area – day-use areas in park.
- Muskegon State Park – day-use area.
- Pinckney Recreation Area – rented shelters in the Silver Lake and Halfmoon day-use areas.
- P. J. Hoffmaster State Park – campground.
- Proud Lake Recreation Area – day-use area east of Wixom Road.
- Seven Lakes State Park – day-use areas of the park.
- Sterling State Park – day-use areas in park.
- Van Buren State Park – day-use and beach area.
- Yankee Springs Recreation Area – Gun Lake day-use area.
March 1 through Sept. 30, you may not possess or consume an alcoholic beverage in the following locations:
- Grand Mere State Park – entire park.
April 1 through Sept. 30, you may not possess or consume an alcoholic beverage in the following locations:
- Brighton Recreation Area – Bishop Lake day-use area.
- Warren Dunes State Park – entire park.
You may not possess or consume an alcoholic beverage at any time within the following described locations, without written authorization of the park manager:
- Belle Isle Park – entire park.
- Dodge #4 State Park – entire park.
- Grand Haven State Park – entire park.
- Holland State Park – entire park.
- Maybury State Park – entire park.
- Pontiac Lake Recreation Area – day-use areas in the park.
- William G. Milliken State Park and harbor – entire park/harbor.
- Yankee Springs Recreation Area – Deep Lake campground, mountain bike parking lot and boating access site 8-18.
ALCOHOL RESTRICTIONS AT BOATING ACCESS SITES
Consuming alcoholic beverages or possessing an open alcoholic beverage are not allowed at locations below. This prohibition does not apply while on a vessel.
- Big lake boating access site 3-1, section 14, T2N R12W, Allegan County
- Green lake boating access site 3-4, section 10, T4N R11W, Allegan County.
- Lake sixteen boating access site 3-9, section 16, T2N R11W, Allegan County.
- Irving road boating access site 8-5, section 31, T4N R9W, Barry County.
- Bristol lake boating access site 8-11, section 10, T1N R8W, Barry County.
- Airport road boating access site 8-32, section 10, T3N R9W, Barry County.
- Benton harbor boating access site 11-12, section 24, T4S R14W, Berrien County.
- Jasper dairy road boating access site, 11-13, section 27, T5S R18W, Berrien County.
- Buchanan boating access site 11-8, section 23, T7S R18W, Berrien County.
- Goguac lake boating access site 13-2, section 14, T2S R8W, Calhoun County.
- Hemlock lake boating access site 14-7, section 3, T5S R13W, Cass County.
- Lake Fenton boating access site 25-2, section 14, T5N R6E, Genesee County.
- Lake Ponemah boating access site 25-3, section 22, T5N R6E, Genesee County.
- Long lake boating access site 34-2, section 3, T8N R7W, Ionia County.
- East Tawas mooring facility (May 15 to Sept.15), Iosco County.
- Sherman lake boating access site 39-2, section 29, T1S R9W, Kalamazoo County.
- Morrow pond boating access site 39-5, section 22, T2S R10W, Kalamazoo County.
- Eagle lake boating access site 39-6, section 9, T3S R12W, Kalamazoo County.
- Rupert lake boating access site 39-9, section 5, T1S R12W, Kalamazoo County.
- Sugar loaf lake boating access site 39-11, section 5, T4S R11W, Kalamazoo County.
- Austin lake boating access site 39-14, section 26, T3S R11W, Kalamazoo County.
- Murray lake boating access site 41-1, section 33, T8N R9W, Kent County.
- Campau lake boating access site 41-2, section 12, T5N R10W, Kent County.
- Camp lake boating access site 41-4, section 18, T9N R11W, Kent County.
- Harley Ensign memorial boating access site 50-1, section 15, T2N R14E, Macomb County.
- Selfridge boating access site 50-3, section 5, T2N R14E, Macomb County.
- Clinton river cutoff boating access site 50-7, section 30, T2N R14E, Macomb County.
- Little Whitefish lake boating access site 59-9, section 8, T11N R10W, Montcalm County.
- Orchard lake boating access site 63-1, section 14, T2N R9E, Oakland County.
- Tackles drive boating access site 63-4, section 13, T3N R8E, Oakland County.
- Tipsico lake boating access site 63-18, section 30, T4N R7E, Oakland County.
- Lake George boating access site 65-16, section 18, T21N R2E, Ogemaw County (May 20 through Sept. 15).
- Lake St. Helen boating access site 72-14, section 21, T23N R1W, Roscommon County (May 20 through Sept. 14).
- Klinger lake boating access site 75-2, section 2, T8S R11W, St. Joseph County.
- Fishers lake boating access site 75-3, section 34, T5S R11W, St. Joseph County.
- Clear lake boating access site 75-4, section 17, T6S R12W, St. Joseph County.
- Gravel lake boating access site 80-3, section 31, T4S R13W, Van Buren County.
- Van Auken boating access site 80-7, section 33, T2S R16W, Van Buren County.
- Three mile lake boating access site 80-8, section 21, T3S R14W, Van Buren County.
- Lake Cora boating access site 80-10, section 18, T3S R14W, Van Buren County.
- North Channel boating access site 74-1, section 9, T2N R16E, St. Clair County.