Michigan Destinations: Camping, fishing and much more offered at Waterloo State Recreation Area

Located in the Waterloo Recreation Area, the Gerald E. Eddy
Discovery Center has geological samples from Michigan
and the Midwest. Demonstrations and classes are available.
 Author's Note: This article was written by a colleague of mine at the newspaper where I work.

By Jennifer Eberbach
For Heritage Media

The Lower Peninsula’s largest state park is only a day-trip from major metropolitan areas. Waterloo State Recreation Area, located in Washtenaw and Jackson Counties and abutting the Chelsea area, is laden with lakes and encapsulates species-rich forests, fields, and wetlands.

The immense swath of nature covers more than 20,000 acres, 32.81 square miles. Even an intrepid eco-traveler could take a lifetime to explore it all. A rolling landscape of forested areas, repurposed agricultural fields, boardwalks across dense bogs, and picturesque lakes await rustic and modern eco-travelers alike.

A view of Sugarloaf Lake from the boat launch,
also a fishing spot for campers.
Waterloo also accesses southern Michigan’s longest trail, a 36-mile-long stretch that continues into Pinckney

State Recreation Area, another 11,000 acres of neighboring state park land that includes the historic Potawatomi Trail.
If you plan it right, you can make a seamless journey backpacking and camping through southern Michigan’s huge expanse of natural landscape. And there are also many access points where you can park the car for the day, many along scenic dirt roads.

It is not only the Great Lakes that define Michigan’s glacier-formed physique. Its reputation as a “lake state” is in no small part due to the lakes sprinkled inland, there are 11 lakes in Waterloo that offer recreational opportunities. There are places to fish, swim, paddle, and snorkel and locations were you can use motorized boats.

The Sugarloaf Campground is one of many sites available
for camping within the expanse of the Waterloo State
Recreation Area.
Modern camping amenities are available at Big Portage Lake (136 sites), where you can also enjoy a public beach, a nearby day-use area, and an 18-hole disc golf course. Sugarloaf Lake Campground (164) sites has a campers-only beach, a boat launch, and a playground. And if you want to go rustic, camping on Green Lake (25 sites) gets you a little closer to nature. There are also cabins rentals and a Yurt to reserve.
Nearby Chelsea has hotels and a charming historic district downtown to explore, with shopping, restaurants, art, and cultural institutions. And after a day in the wild, you might catch a play at the Purple Rose Theater, which was founded by actor Jeff Daniels.

Most of the park is open to hunters, who enjoy large populations of white-tailed deer and wild turkeys. There are many species of foul — ducks, geese, pheasants, to name just a few.

A trail cuts through Waterloo' s rolling terrain.
If you would rather watch the birds, you will find many species inhabiting Waterloo — the area is noted for its large, majestic Sandhill cranes.

Equestrians have 12 miles of bridal trails and an equestrian campground for bedding down at night.

In such a massive, ecologically diverse state park, you can have your pick of Waterloo adventures. Stop over at the Gerald E. Eddy Geology Center to learn about the area’s wildlife and geological make-up, and pick up trail maps and park information.

A Michigan Recreation Passport grants access to the state park. Out-of-state visitors can purchase a day pass or an annual pass to experience southern Michigan’s remarkable beauty.