Rustic park in Marquette County is growing

MARQUETTE COUNTY – A popular rustic park in western Marquette County just got a little bit bigger.

The U.P. Land Conservancy gifted nearly 1,300 acres of highlands wilderness in Marquette County to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to protect the property from degradation and maintain public access.

“We are please(d) to have this wonderful legacy donation to add to the very special Craig Lake State Park,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division.

The property includes three parcels that made up the conservancy’s Peshekee Headwaters Nature Preserve, which lies along the eastern edge of Craig Lake State Park.

In a DNR  press release, the UPLC said the property contains nearly 90% of the watershed that fills Indian Lake, which is headwaters of the West Branch of the Peshekee River, along with 10 miles of hiking trails that connect to the adjacent state park.

“The watershed, lake and river are a source of freshwater that provides healthy drinking water and clean fish to eat, provides many kinds of safe recreation for the community and visitors, and supports healthy forest ecosystems downstream,” said Andrea Denham, executive director of the conservancy. “The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is the best partner in continued protection of this freshwater resource given the work they already do to protect forests and fresh waters in the Peshekee River Watershed.”

To the DNR, this gift improves access to 120 acres of state ownership, provides additional recreation opportunities, including hiking, hunting, trapping and fishing, and ensures the land remains open to the public and enjoyed for generations to come. The land is home to diverse wildlife including moose, bears, white-tailed deer, wolves and loons.

“This property augments the remarkable remote landscape at Craig Lake State Park,” said Doug Rich, western Upper Peninsula district supervisor for the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “The acquisition also helps achieve department goals and supports strategies and plans involving trails, public lands and protecting natural resources for the future.”

Under the transaction, the conservancy will pay $62,000 in back taxes on the property. After which, Marquette County will be eligible for payments in lieu of taxes on the land from the state of Michigan.

Michigamme Township unanimously supported a resolution in favor of the gift of land at their Nov. 8, 2021 township board meeting.

DNR staff in the Parks and Recreation Division moved the gifting proposal forward to the department’s real estate and executive divisions for consideration. The transaction was approved and signed by DNR Director Dan Eichinger and announced at this month’s meeting of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission.

Craig Lake State Park, encompassing just under 8,500 acres, has walk-in campsites and other camping options, including yurts and rustic cabins. It is the most remote state park in Michigan.

The park contains six full lakes and a variety of wildlife. Craig Lake has a main trail covering 8 miles, while the National North Country Scenic Trail runs here too for more than 7 miles.

Click the link to learn more about the land gift.