Thorin Rehkopf is a former computer and network analyst who traded in his day job to focus on his adorable daughters as a stay-at-home dad.After spending more time with his kids and seeing how limiting a life in the suburbs really was, he determined he would give his kids the world through experience. ...Find out more!
For those seeking a backpacking and camping experience off the beaten path the Haymarsh Lake State Game Area, located in central lower Michigan, is a wonderful way to explore nature in an inexpensive, out-of-the-way setting. This mostly unimproved public land had a little something to indulge all of my nature hobbies in one beautifully rustic setting. I was pleasantly surprised by the scenery and the plentiful flora and fauna that provided my inner nature photographer with plenty of practice; while simultaneously helping me keep in shape trekking through the long lost paths that litter the area. With vast opportunities for photography, exercise, and wild animal encounters the Haymarsh, as the locals refer to it, is the perfect getaway for an outdoor enthusiast’s trip.
As an aspiring amateur photographer it was a real treat for me to see so much wildlife in such a short amount of time; and I would highly recommend that anyone looking to grab a few pics take their time and explore fully the wonderful shorelines and secluded wooded areas which are positively chock full of life. From frogs, to fish, beavers to ospreys the Haymarsh Lake area is teeming with various and sundry wildlife just waiting for a steady hand, an optical zoom lens,
and the patience to find and photograph them. There are no marked paths so be prepared to blaze your own trail, either on land or in the water and make sure that you pack the appropriate apparel for yourself in addition to your camera gear.
For those who are more interested in exploration than documentation, the lake has over 56 acres of mostly undeveloped land waiting for someone to walk through it. Though a large “two track” runs into the area near the dam, but most of the land is now overgrown with few paths and no pre-defined hiking trails. Trekking through these kinds of marshlands is a wonderful experience for kids as there lots of snakes, squirrels, dragonflies, and various other wildlife in close proximity where you can interact with them. Unfortunately this also means you’ll encounter plenty of mosquitoes, so plan accordingly, but the rest of the wildlife in the area isn’t harmful to people so you can leave the bear whistle at home and let the kids roam.
If you prefer an extended stay, the Haymarsh does have 19 campsites available. They are mostly unimproved with simple pit toilets and an old fashioned hand-operated well for water; but, you’ll find the area quiet and mostly free from noisy neighbors and other distractions. There is a boat launch for those seeking to relax among the lily pads or do a bit of fishing (NOTE: proper permits are required); while, campsite access is allowed for those in possession of a valid Camp Registration Permit, available from any Michigan Department of Natural Resources office.
Though this camping experience is not for the amenity-dependent it offers a great option for back-to-nature enthusiasts to test themselves against the peaceful backdrop of the Haymarsh. With only a 30 minute drive to several small towns refreshments and supplies can easily be picked up should you find yourself in the backwoods without the requisite resources. The camping experience means different things to different people and not everyone can appreciate the serene tranquility of a rustic nature setting like Haymarsh Lake. However, to those willing to do without some of life’s creature comforts can find a unique outdoor experience in the heart of Michigan.
The Haymarsh Lake State Game Area is not your standard, tourist destination and when visiting you are likely to meet only locals, if you run into anyone at all. Yet for those who find themselves in Michigan, a visit to the Haymarsh will provide excellent exercise, fabulous photography opportunities, and a real nature expedition for enjoyment for a few hours or a few days.