The hardest thing about finding a spot to camp in the wintertime in the north is finding an open campground.
As we toured Michigan’s beautiful snow covered Upper Peninsula in mid-February looking for a place to spend the night, all we found were Wal-Mart and Indian casino parking lots. Sorry, but those kind of environments are not our idea of camping. All the regular campgrounds we passed were closed and unplowed.
The unplowed part is a big deal.
So it was with great delight that we discovered that one of Michigan’s premiere state parks, the 50,000-acre Tahquamenon Falls State Park between the towns of Paradise and Newberry, was not only open but had a dozen campsites plowed and available.
First though, we had to see the falls. The Upper Falls, one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, has a drop of nearly 50 feet, more than 200 feet across and a water flow of more than 50,000 gallons per second. It was spectacular in the winter. The slower moving part nearest the bank was frozen. But three-quarters seemed oblivious to the cold – a few degrees above zero the afternoon we visited.
The amber color of the water is caused by tannins leached from the Cedar, Spruce and Hemlock in the swamps drained by the river.
Mist coats trees and rocks on the shore. The entire scene is breathtakingly beautiful.
After a dinner at the excellent restaurant and microbrew at the Upper Falls – also open all winter and doing a brisk business from snowmobilers – we made our way to the Lower Falls campground, about four miles to the north.
While we slept that night the temperature outside dropped to minus four. We were amazed at how warm we were in our Roadtrek eTrek, warmed by a Webasto Dual Top diesel heater. We also plugged in a small ceramic heater to keep the floor warm when we made our way out of bed to use the bathroom. Speaking of which, instead of water, you flush the toilet with antifreeze. The water you need, you just take in plastic bottles.
The next morning, as a gentle snow fell outside, we felt pretty rugged, spending the night in such cold. Then we looked around. There were other campers in the park. Two of them were in tents. You can meet them in the video above.
The park was beautiful. The State DNR keeps about a dozen spots open and plowed. While water is turned off at the sites, electricity is available. And a couple of clean pit toilets are also available.
Winter camping may not be for everyone. But why not try it? I bet you’ll be surprised by how great it is.