Teepee Camping in Michigan State Parks

In his 19th century classic, “Rhythm of the Redman,” Ernest Thompson Seton, founder of the Boy Scouts movement, wrote this about his love of the teepee as the optimum camping shelter:

“The superlative advantages of the teepee are the open fire, the perfect ventilation, the warmth in cool weather, the coolth in warm weather, the lung balm and disinfectant supplied by the wood-smoke, and maybe the strongest of all – its beauty and romance.”

Seton didn’t envision the modern amenities – electricity, hardwood flooring, cots and more – that are fueling a popular resurgence of teepee camping in the United States, Canada and Europe.

In Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources now offers teepee camping in three state parks, and is continuing to add more sites as demand grows among both residents and tourists. Campers may reserve teepees in Michigan by calling 1-800-44PARKS. Teepee reservations aren’t yet available online.

The adventurous thrill, especially for children, of teepee camping may be enhanced for parents by the low cost: In Michigan’s forested state parks, teepee camping sites may be rented for just $30 a night. That’s an even greater bargain for families, considering the teepee itself sleeps four, and campers are permitted to erect one other tent of their choosing on the same site!

Each teepee comes equipped with either cots or bunk beds to sleep four. So, by adding another tent to the mix, large families or a group of adults can share the teepee adventure and still have plenty of cash left over to enjoy other, more modern vacation distractions that are offered in the towns serving the state parks.

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Today’s teepees are erected by park rangers, so campers need no special expertise to fully enjoy the experience. Unlike the Native Americans’ teepees, camping teepees usually offer wood floors and so forego the traditional smoke-hole at the top as well as the fire-pit inside! A traditional camping fire ring is included outside of the teepee on the campsite.

Teepees typically are available to rent in the “modern camping” sections of campgrounds, so the campsite is served with electricity. Today’s teepees offer closeable door flaps, much like those found on tents; many 19th century teepees preferred a door of canvas stretched on a wood frame.

One key restriction comes with teepee camping in Michigan state parks: No pets are permitted in teepees, although they are permitted in the state parks and campgrounds.

The three Michigan State Parks that offer teepee camping are Interlochen State Park in Interlochen; Cheboygan State Park in Cheboygan; and Wilson State Park in Harrison.
Each park also offers a host of other camping options, amenities, natural features and activities to truly make the teepee camping experience a memorable one!

Interlochen State Park

You’ll make camping history at Interlochen, by camping in Michigan’s oldest state park, a 187-acre stand of virgin pine trees nestled between two beautiful lakes, in the northwestern portion of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

In addition to teepee camping, Interlochen offers campers:

* swimming in Green Lake and Duck Lake
* fishing (bass, bluegill, pike and smelt)
* ice fishing
* hiking trails
* children’s playground
* three boat launches
* picnic tables and shelters
* nearby canoeing on the Platte and Betsie rivers
* Interlochen Music Festival and Camp, adjacent to the park

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Directions: Reach Interlochen State Park by driving U. S. Highway 31 to Traverse City, then continue traveling west on U. S. 31 for about seven miles until you reach the town of Interlochen. At Interlochen, exit U. S. 31 at M-137. Travel about two miles south on M-137 until you reach the park.

For information, call 231-276-9511.

Cheboygan State Park

This gorgeous 1,200-acre year-round park hugs Lake Huron and Duncan Bay, and still retains the remains of an historic 155-year-old lighthouse, Cheboygan Point Light, erected in 1851 to help bring Great Lakes mariners home safely. The park is a designated “Watchable Wildlife Viewing Area” with many wildlife habitats throughout.

Teepee camping and wildlife viewing in the park are enhanced by numerous other activities, including:

* fishing (speckled brown trout, Northern Pike, small- and large-mouth bass)
* swimming in Lake Huron and Duncan Bay
* beach-houses on Lake Huron Beach
* wildflowers and dune grass of protected species
* nearly 10 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, some with scenic views of the lake and watershed
* children’s playground
* bay access for 14-foot to 16-foot watercraft
* picnic areas, tables, and shelters
* recreational metal detecting areas

Hunting is permitted in designated sections of the park during certain seasons. Hunters must be licensed and observe all state laws. Call 231-627-2811 for more information.

Directions: Cheboygan State Park is located at 4490 Beach Rd near Cheboygan. To visit the park, travel north on Interstate 75. Take Exit 326 and follow the signs to the town of Cheboygan. Drive through town to U. S. Highway 23. Follow the highway east for about three miles to the park entrance.

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For information, call 231-627-2811.

Wilson State Park

This 36-acre mid-Michigan state park on the site of an 1880’s sawmill and general store is relatively small by Michigan’s standards, but packs a lot of outdoors activity into most of a year. This woodland park doesn’t permit vehicle traffic between December and March.

Campers, water-lovers and anglers truly enjoy this park. There’s a sandy swimming beach built by the civilian conservation corps around 1940, a beach-house and pavilion. the 175-acre budd lake inside the park offers an access ramp for great watercrafting and water-skiing.

In addition, Wilson State Park offers:

* fishing (perch, bass, walleye, muskellunge and panfish)
* picnic tables and shelter
* fire-pits and mounted grilles
* recreational metal detecting.

Adjacent to the park is the Clare County Fairgrounds, the site of a host of activities all season long.

Directions: Traveling from the south or the north, take U. S. Highway 1-27 to the Harrison exit. Turn right toward Harrison; travel about 3.5 to 4 miles to the park entrance.

For information, call the park office at 989-539-3021. Between December and March, call 989-386-4067.