The Van Riper State Park is located in Champion in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. When the weather permits, the park is open year round with the main road and some of its campsites accessible and plowed. Most notable about the park is its numerous trails.
The part of the park that is most used is beyond the main entrance by the beach at the lake’s east end and the two campgrounds . The park was named after Dr. Paul Van Riper, who was known as Champion’s frontier doctor. The Van Riper State Park beach was known as a favored swimming spot for many Champion residents. Dr. Van Riper had helped the town to acquire the beach through his position in politics as the town commissioner. Local legend has it that Dr. Van Riper did so after local kids observed him in the act of changing into his swimsuit and made up chant about it that was not very flattering. His first order of business was to make sure that the new park got areas for people to change in immediately.
The Overlook Trail offers a one-hour hike loop with sights such as amazing rock outcrops, the Peshekee River, hundred-year-old pines, and Lake Michigamme. It can be accessed by driving about a mile on Huron Bay Road. Once you have crossed the river, park on the left. This is the trail’s head. The addition of stairs which were improved in 2004 make the path somewhat easier, but hikers do need to be careful on the rocks. This trail is not for the leisurely hiker.
The River Trail which is located on other side of Martin’s Landing Road is proclaimed as the best hike in Marquette County. Running south along the Peshekee River valley, it starts out on a boardwalk over wetlands, then offers hikers a view of the river before going into an area of big pines.
The Beaver Pond Trail is near the main entrance. Found along this trail are information panels about plants and animals native to the state park which include the eagle, the grey wolf, bat, pine marten, pleated woodpecker, frog, sandhill crane and salamanders. This trail covers about two miles and connects with the Overlook Trail.
The Moose Kiosk on the main entrance informs park visitors on the habits of moose. Telling the story of Operation Mooselift, a moose transplant operation that reintroduced moose to a release site six miles north of the park in 1985 and 1987, it offers much information on the moose in the region. The collection of videos shown in the Moose Kiosk include one video showing moose being sedated, lifted by helicopter, put into crates, and taken to another location. Smaller informative kiosks can be found in other areas with various displays of other historical events related to the wildlife in the area.
Lake Michigamme Beach is a favorite due to its very gentle drop off and out of the ordinary warm water. Fishing on this lake is also very popular. However, it’s been noted that due to its size and dark warm color it is a difficult lake to fish. This is one of the few lakes in which the DNRE has successfully introduced trout due to its extreme depths and cold pockets of water. Trout fishing is a much enjoyed activity for many fishermen.
Van Riper State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a wonderful, scenic area to spend time with your family. In addition to the activities mentioned above, Van Riper State Park offers playground facilities for children, a picnic area, wildlife watching areas, snowmobiling during the winter months, an on-site taxidermist, as well as a metal detecting area. The camp ground facilities offer many modern conveniences including electric service, modern restrooms and high speed wireless internet. There are also many towns surrounding the park offering shopping and dining activities for you and your family.
When planning a trip to the Van Riper Park, it’s a good idea to call ahead if you plan to camp and make reservations. The address of the park is 851 County Road AKE, Champion, Michigan 49814. Reservations can be made by calling 800-447-2757. Park staff can be reached by calling 906-339-4461.