If we had to pick something off the Alpena bucket list that you should never miss, it would be our dark sky experience! 

Rockport State Recreation Area, courtesy Paul Gerow

In February 2016, three state parks in the Alpena area received dark sky designation. These sanctuaries are far away from the harsh effects of excessive artificial light pollution, which negatively impacts ecosystems and tarnishes aesthetic environments. This side effect of urbanization not only causes a disturbance to the night sky above but also to the mind and body by increasing the risk of sleep disorders and depression.

As the world becomes more and more developed, the dark sky becomes a rarity. With Alpena being miles away from any major metropolitan area, a dark sky oasis is anything but scarce. Celestial bodies, the Aurora Borealis, and the band of the Milky Way are all easily visible from our dark sky preserves when the conditions are right. Find your dark sky adventure at one, or all three, of our nearby preserves; each one located on the beautiful Lake Huron.

Negwegon State Park

Negwegon State Park is located south of Alpena on US-23, with 10 miles of hiking trails and one of the most beautiful beaches along the Lake Huron coastline. Mysterious, remote, undeveloped, and both rugged and pristine, this state park is considered a hidden treasure amongst locals and visitors.

Directions from Alpena: Take Black River Rd. 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 continue 1.5 miles to the day use the parking area.

Rockport State Recreation Area

Photo courtesy, Paul Gerow

Rockport State Recreation Area is Michigan’s 100th state park with 4,237 acres and a wide variety of day-to-night activities. A 300-acre abandoned limestone quarry provides Devonian Period fossils for a fun fossil hunting experience as well as a bat hibernaculum, a unique series of over a dozen sinkholes, hiking and biking trails, and a deep-water protected harbor perfect for fishing and swimming.

Directions from Alpena: Drive north on US-23 for approximately 9 miles until you see Opechee’s gas station on the right. Turn right on Rockport Rd. just before Opechee’s, drive all the way down to the end of the road and you are there!

Thompson Harbor State Park

Thompson’s Harbor State Park is a natural area consisting of 5,000 acres of sand dunes, upland, and marsh. Thompson’s Harbor is also considered one of the few 50 remaining examples of “forested wet swale communities” of this quality and is home to one of the largest populations of federal and state-threatened dwarf lake iris, Michigan’s state wildflower. Spend the day viewing nature or hiking the 6 miles of rustic trails before the blanket of the night sky wraps around you.

Directions from Alpena: Drive north on US-23 to Presque Isle County for approximately 24 miles. Turn right on Trailhead Rd. and go .6 miles before making a slight left. Drive another 1.3 miles and you will see the entry to the park.

What to bring…

The Northern Lights; photo courtesy Paul Gerow

  • Blanket
  • Sweatshirt
  • Chairs
  • Camera
  • Flashlight
  • Bug Spray
  • Hot Cocoa
  • Snacks
  • Friends

Whichever park you choose, try your hand at dark sky photography, bring a telescope to take a better look, or just bring a blanket to relax and enjoy a cosmic experience that’ll make you feel a million miles away from your worries…right in Alpena’s backyard.

Featured image at Thompson’s Harbor State Park courtesy of Pure Michigan.