Sanctuary of the great lakes

Dark Sky Preserve Parks & Sinkholes


Created when subsurface layers of anhydrite and gypsym dissolve, sinkholes dot the landscape in and around Alpena with the country’s highest concentration of these geologic wonders. A thick layer of Devonian limestone and shale, known as the Traverse Group, lies beneath the surface of Northeast Michigan. Below that, lies the Detroit River Group, which contains anhydrite and gypsum. These minerals dissolve much more readily than limestone, and as the Detroit River Group rocks erode and create caverns, Traverse Group rocks above collapse into the underground caverns, creating sinkholes. Check out the Sinkhole Adventure Guide to learn more!

Sinkholes are fascinating locations to discover Devonian Era fossils from prehistoric life 400+ million years ago. Also keep a close eye out for unique plant-life as the environment in the bottom of some sinkholes is home to flora not found anywhere else in Northern Michigan.While many sinkholes in the area are on private land there are some incredible locations that are open to the public. The Stevens Twin Sinks and Bruski Sink, Rockport State Park sinks, Sunken Lake, Mystery Valley, and Misery Bay sink are all easily accessed via woodland trails or a kayak ride out on the water.

The stars over Alpena & campfire (photo courtesy Paul Gerow).

The stars over Alpena as a campfire blazes; photo courtesy of Paul Gerow

Stargazing at Alpena’s 3 official Dark Sky Preserve Parks

Get your Alpena Dark Sky Preserve Parks Adventure Guide HERE!!

See the stars of the night sky like you’ve never seen them before!

As of February 16, 2016, Negwegon State Park, Rockport State Recreation Area, and Thompson’s Harbor State Park have been officially named Michigan Dark Sky Preserves. These parks are now protected from artificial light pollution and provide amazing night sky stargazing.

With light pollution readings among the lowest in the Great Lakes region, Alpena is a prime location for viewing the cosmos. At night, the sky illuminates with the incredible glow of the Milkyway. Take your telescope, camera, or just your family and take in a lightshow the level of which only mother nature can provide. See the constellations of the northern hemisphere like you’ve never seen them before. If you’re lucky you may even be witness to a spectacular show of the Aurora Borealis. While stars are visible from the middle of the city, stargazing is best at one of Alpena’s nearby State Dark Sky Preserve parks including Rockport State Park Recreation Area, Thompson’s Harbor State Park, or Negwegon State Park. Rural isolation has its benefits. Being miles away from any major metropolitan area gives northeast Michigan a unique advantage for those who enjoy the mysteries revealed in the night sky. Our lack of concentrated light pollution makes the cosmos appear crisp and clear. Even in the middle of the city you can clearly see all the constellations of the northern hemisphere.

Stargazer-Friendly Businesses

Eat, Sleep & Fuel-up in Alpena, MI 49707

  • 24 Hour Alpena Stores and Gas Stations:
    7-Eleven: (989) 354-0970, 650 N. Ripley Blvd.
    Wal-Mart Supercenter: (989)354-0830, 1180 M-32.
    Admiral: (989) 358-9818, 906 W. Washington Ave., AND (989) 354-4833, 2520 US-23 S.
    Meijer (grocery/supplies): (989) 884-6100, 1251 M-32 W.
    Meijer Gas Station: (989) 884-6129
    Diamond’s Point Self Service Shell Station: (989) 354-2550, 2404 US-23 S.
    Chisholm St. Full Service Shell Station: (989) 356-2001, 1017 W. Chisholm St.
    Corner Depot Shell Self Service Station: (989) 354-2512, 999 Long Rapids Rd.
  • 24 Hour Alpena Restaurants:
    McDonalds: (989) 354-5522, 1115 W. Chisholm Street.
    John Boy’s: (989) 356-0481, 817 W. Chisholm St.
    Nick’s Southside Diner: (24 hrs. /Tuesday-Saturday): (989) 358-1955, 3023 US-23 S.
  • Early Morning Restaurants:
    Cabin Creek Coffee: (989) 356-5613, 201 N. Second Ave., Hours: 6:30 am-7:30 pm
    Big Boy: (989) 354-4131, 400 S. Ripley Blvd., Hours: 6 am – 10 pm
    J.J.’s Steak and Pizza House (7 am-2 am Mon-Sat, 7 am-12 am Sun): (989) 356-1666, 411 N. Second Ave.
  • Late Night Alpena Restaurants:
    Taco Bell (7am -12am.): (989) 354-7991, 111 Paddington Ct.
    Burger King (6 am-12 am): (989) 356-3639, 2394 US-23 S.
    J.J.’s Steak and Pizza House (7 am-2 am Mon-Sat, 7 am-12 am Sun): (989) 356-1666, 411 N. Second Ave.

Rockport State Park Recreation Area
Rockport State Park, Michigan’s 100th State Park, has over 4,237 acres of land located on the shores of Lake Huron, 11 miles North of Alpena. The property includes a deep-water protected harbor, an old limestone quarry of approximately 300 acres, a unique series of sinkholes, the Besser Natural Area, and a broad range of land types, vegetative cover, cultural resources and recreation opportunities. At the harbor, the DNR has a boat launch facility, and there is a small park with picnic areas. Print out this handy Rockport Adventure Guide to start your exploration of Michigan’s 100th State Park.

GPS: 45.202386, -83.384044
Distance from Alpena: 11 miles north of Alpena via US-23 N. to Rockport Road. Follow Rockport Rd to the end.
On-site facilities: Vault toilet, picnic area.

Services nearest Rockport:

Closest late-night/early-morning conveniences and distance from park. Call to confirm operation hours as they may change seasonally.

  • Dinner:
    The Sandbar & Grill (7 miles): (989) 595-0009, 9027 Long Lake Road, Alpena, MI 49707
    Grand Lake Daily Limit (12 miles): (989) 595-2560, 15878 US 23 N., Presque Isle, MI 49707
    Hide Away Tavern (4 miles): (989) 595-6787, 1085 US 23 N., Alpena, MI 49707
  • Breakfast:
    MI Shortstop (9 miles): (989) 354-5318, 1141 US 23 N, Alpena, MI 49707, Hours 6 am-8 pm  (Kitchen)
  • Gas Station/Convenience Stores:
    Opechee’s (2 miles): (989) 595-6776, 9621 Hwy US 23 N, Alpena, MI 49707, Hours: 6:30 am – 10 pm, Sunday 8 am- 8 pm
    MI Shortstop (9 miles): (989) 354-5318, 1141 Hwy US 23 N, Alpena, MI 49707, Hours: 5 am – 10 pm M-F, 7 am-10 pm Sat.-Sun. (Service Station)

Thompson’s Harbor State Park
Located 26 miles north of Alpena on US 23 North, this natural area encompasses 5,000 acres of sand dunes, upland and marsh. In Michigan there are fewer than 50 remaining examples of “forested wet swale communities” of this quality. The area supports one of the largest known populations in the world of the federal and state-threatened dwarf lake iris, Michigan’s state wildflower. Thousands of iris shoots, and several other plant species of special concern grow in the area. Situated along seven and a half miles of Lake Huron shoreline, this undeveloped park provides a rustic retreat for hikers exploring the park’s six miles of trails. Park at the trail-head off of US-23.

GPS: 45.335465, -83.603988
Distance from Alpena: 26 miles North of Alpena on US-23 N.
On-site Facilities: Parking area. Vault toilet.

Services nearest Thompson’s Harbor:

  • Dinner:
    McDonald’s (15 miles): (989) 734-7131, 290 S. Bradley Hwy, Rogers City, MI 49779, Hours: 6 a.m. – 11 p.m.
    Kelly’s Venture Inn (11 miles): (989) 734-2865, 3090 US 23 S, Rogers City, MI 49779, Hours: 4-10 pm
  • Breakfast:
    McDonald’s (15 miles): (989) 734-7131, 290 S. Bradley Hwy, Rogers City, MI 49779, Hours: 6 am -11 pm
    Kortman’s Restaurant (16 miles): (989) 734-3512, 481 N. Bradley Hwy, Rogers City, MI 49779, Hours: 6 am – 8 pm
    Subway (15 miles): (989) 734-4903, 285 S. Bradley Hwy, Rogers City, MI 49779, Hours: 6 am -9 pm
  • Gas Stations/Convenience Stores:
    Citgo (15 Miles): (989) 734-7133, 153 S. 3rd Street, Rogers City, MI 49779, Hours: 6 am – 11 pm
    Sunoco/Bayport food Store: (989) 734-4903, 285 S. Bradley Hwy, Rogers City, MI 49779, Hours: 5:30 am – 10 pm

Negwegon State Park
Mysterious, remote and undeveloped, Negwegon State Park is a hidden treasure with 10 miles of hiking trails and one of the most beautiful beaches on Lake Huron. Negwegon is located on US-23, 20 miles South of Alpena. Drivers should be wary of the entry route to the park…part of it is a sandy two-track road. To get to the park, take Black River road off of US 23 to the east 1.5 miles, turn north on Sand Hill Rd. and go 2.5 miles, turn right or east at the Negwegon State Park sign and go 1.5 miles to the day use parking area.  No services, back country camping available.

GPS: 44.865832, -83.327580
Distance from Alpena: 20 miles South of Alpena on US-23 S. Take US-23 S to Wilds Rd. Turn East on Wilds Rd. Wilds Rd. turns into Sand Hill Rd. and then turns East onto Negwegon Park Rd.
On-site facilities: Vault toilet, artesian well.

Services closest to Negwegon:

  • Dinner:
    The Mountain Inn (5 miles): (989) 471-2066, 5495 US-23 S, Black River, MI 48742
    The Wagon Wheel (8 miles): (989) 471-1125, 2030 E. Nicholson Hill Road, Ossineke, MI 49766
    Rosa’s Lookout Inn (9 miles): (989) 471-2118, 6808 US-23 S, Spruce, MI, 48762
    Subway (8 miles): (989) 471-8000, 11596 US-23 S, Ossineke, MI 49766, Hours 7 am -9 pm (10 pm Thurs-Sat)
  • Breakfast:
    Connie’s Café (8 miles): (989) 471-5415, 11585 US-23 S, Ossineke, MI 49766, Hours 7 am–2 pm (Fridays open until 8 pm)
  • Gas Station/Convenience Stores:
    Chippewa Point Grocery (8 miles): (989) 471-9159, 6575 US-23 S, Spruce, MI 48762 , Hours: 8 am- 9 pm
    BP Ossineke (8 miles): (989) 471-2676, 11596 US-23 S, Ossineke, MI 49766, Hours: 7 am -10 pm
    Francis Service Station (8 miles): (989) 471-2356, 11923 US-23 S., Ossineke, MI 49766, Hours: 6 am -9 pm, Sunday 8 am- 9 pm

Harrisville Locations (Harrisville is 25 miles South of Negwegon)

  • Breakfast:
    The Flour Garden (25 miles): (989) 724-7473, 105 S. State Street, Harrisville, MI 49740, Hours: 7:30 am- 3 pm
  • Dinner:
    Ki Cuylers Sports Bar (25 miles): (989) 724-5866, 262 US 23, Harrisville, MI 49740, Hours: 11 am – 10 pm
  • Gas:
    Harrisville Shell Station (25 miles): (989) 724-6159, 217 S. State St., Harrisville, MI 48740, Hours: 5 am -12 am


Alpena Convention & Visitors Bureau
235 W. Chisholm St. • Alpena, MI 49707
1-800-4-ALPENA or (989) 354-4181
© 2014 Alpena Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, All Rights Reserved. Produced by Gaslight Media
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