Location: Ludington, Michigan
Webpage: Michigan State Park
General Description: In 1852, Charles Mears purchased land along the Big Sable River, in search of a mill location. The mouth of “Big Sable Lake,” with its narrow stream to Lake Michigan seemed the ideal location. Mears built the first wooden dam and established a sawmill in 1856. This dam was located a few hundred feet downstream from the present-day dam, and raised the lake 12-15 feet. A smaller, wooden dam in the lower Sable held back water to create a large holding pond for logs…thus the creation of Hamlin Lake. Logs were cut in winter, stacked on the ice, and moved down into Hamlin Lake each spring. The Mud Hen was built in 1865 to move the logs about Hamlin Lake, and was the first steam-powered boat in the region, operating for over 50 years. Near the dam, the water-powered shingle mill cut about 15 million shingles a year and employed 60 men. Mules pulled carts loaded with shingles along a narrow-gauge railway from the mill, along the river to the docks. Other logs floated downriver to the holding pond. The logs were then cut at the steam-powered mills near the Lake Michigan docks. In 1888, the wooden dam collapsed and a huge wall of water moved houses, buildings, and debris into Lake Michigan. A second dam was built, but in 1912, that one too, broke washing away all remnants of the village of Hamlin. A new, concrete dam was completed in 1914, about 100 yards upstream from the original dam. Today Hamlin Lake serves as the centerpiece of Lundington State Park which encompasses 5300 acres and several miles of beaches along Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake. In addition to the beachside activities, fishing, and tubing the Big Sable River, the park has 21.5 miles of hiking trails through all the ecosystems in the area.
1) Ludington State Park is one of the highest rated state parks in the state for good reason. As much of the park sites in between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan there are a wide range of activities that can be enjoyed and all are beautifully laid out and well planned. However, if you want to visit during the summer, get there early, even on a week day. We arrived at 10:00 in the morning and had no problem getting in the park and finding a parking space. However, when we left at 2:30 they were lined up for two miles trying to get in the park and were being held up since there was no place to park until someone left.
2) Our main purpose for visiting the park was the hiking trails and we found a very good paved hiking trail the began at the dam and looped around on both sides of the Big Sable River.
3) Along the trail you can take a side trip up the Sand Dune Trail. This is a wood boardwalk that climbs up to the top of the dunes by a long series of steps. The trail then follows the top of the dune to some great views of Lake Michigan before descending back down to the park entrance. It was well worth the effort of the initial climb to the top of the dune and the steps were a LOT easier to deal with then climbing up and down in sand.