Guest Author - Sharon Bejin
During the summer months in the Great Lakes region, we have many activities to choose from when visiting the state parks – biking, camping, hiking, swimming, and site-seeing. With so many things to choose from it’s hard to get bored. Enjoyment of the outdoors has been around for a long time now and what I find interesting are the oldest state parks in surrounding the Great Lakes area.
The state parks nearby have lots of history. Itasca State Park was established in Minnesota in the year 1891. The park has 30,000 acres which hold 100 lakes. Some historical landmarks within the park include an old growth of pine trees from over 200 years ago and the Itasca Indian Cemetery.
South of Wisconsin and Minnesota you will find Fort Massac which was dedicated as Illinois first state park in 1908. The site’s rich history dates back to the 1700s when a fort was built during the French and Indian War. It was originally named the De L’ Ascension, although it has since been rebuilt several times due to destruction during several wars over the last 300 plus years.
In Wisconsin, the Interstate State Park located in St. Croix Falls is the oldest state park. The Interstate State Park is one of 99 in Wisconsin. It was established in 1900. It is still in operation with 85 campsites, including one primitive site that accommodates a group of 60. Michigan established Interlochen State Park in 1917. The park is located in the middle of two freshwater lakes. Some of the old pine trees still stand.
McCormick Creek State Park is the oldest state park in Indiana, dating back to 1916. The opening of the park started with 350 acres, but now proudly consists of a little over 1800 acres. Buckeye Lake State Park in Ohio was officially named in 1826. The lake was one lake out of several that were created to be feeder lakes for a canal system in the early 1800s.
To the east is the ever popular Niagara Falls State Park in New York that was established in 1885. The park has over 400 acres and nearly 140 acres are under water. The stunning water falls in the park awe visitors as over 30,000 tons of water pour over the falls every ten seconds. In 1893, Valley Forge State Park was established in Pennsylvania to protect Valley Forge. Many of Pennsylvania’s State Parks are historical sites.
No matter which state parks we visit in the Great Lakes region, there are many things to see and do, allowing us to connect with nature and history at the same time. The parks’ historical value makes vacationing in the outdoors even more pleasurable.