Gas tank getaways: Brimley State Park is beckoning

The Point Iroquois Lighthouse is one of the nearby attractions easily visited with an 8-mile drive west from Brimley State Park. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

Glancing down a sandy pathway under the trees at Brimley State Park in Chippewa County, you can see the soft sugary beach sands and the smooth cool pastel blue of Lake Superior waiting.

Walk a few more steps and you can look across this southern section of Whitefish Bay to the rugged hills of Canada. White gulls with outstretched wings twirl slowly in the warm sunny skies above this beautiful long stretch of beach.

The waters here are prized by swimmers as some of the warmest on Lake Superior, while anglers come here for whitefish, yellow perch, northern pike, bass and walleye, which are plentiful in the nearby bays and rivers.

Coldwater anglers enjoy the park as a place to stay to while planning fishing trips to trout streams located with a 30-minute drive.

Brimley State Park has been a popular spot since it was first established in 1922, with 38 of the park’s 150 acres received as a gift from the village of Brimley. The remaining acreage was acquired through land purchases, tax reversion and exchanges.

A camper enjoys a sunny afternoon at one of the campsites at Brimley State Park. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

Beginning in the 1940s, development of the park increased with park facilities constructed, later expanded and improved to meet a growing public demand.

Park staffers began compiling attendance records in 1927. That year, 15,208 people visited the park, and there were 714 camps registered. By 1969, those figures had jumped dramatically to 134,488 visitors and 14,026 camps registered.

For years, Brimley State Park was often a contender for top camping park in the state. In 1966, the park topped all others in the Upper Peninsula for the number of camper permits issued.

In 2017, campers and day-use visitors totaled 95,485, with 16,315 camp nights. A survey conducted in 1963 showed campers spent $266,000 in the area — the equivalent of $2.7 million today.

The grounds of the park offer picnicking, playground equipment, a picnic shelter, beach house, mini-cabin, group use area and rustic and modern campsites. There are large grills here for cookouts, as well as other pursuits including geocaching, metal detecting, canoe and kayak paddling, boating and hiking along an abandoned railroad corridor located next to the park.

During the park’s 50th anniversary in 1972, the assistant park supervisor spotted a moose at the park in a heavy rainstorm.

“At first, I thought it was a horse,” Bob Beacom told The Evening News. “Then I rolled down the window and saw it was a good-sized moose without a rack, so I presume it was a female.”

Moose have traveled from Ontario into the eastern U.P. over the years to help maintain a remnant population of about 100 animals.

The park is situated along West 6 Mile Road and at the head of the St. Marys River, which provides visitors with opportunities to see and photograph 1,000-foot Great Lakes freighters up and down bound on Lake Superior.

Weekly nature programs are hosted at the park.

“Located 1 mile east of the village of Brimley, and just 14 miles southwest of Sault Ste. Marie, Brimley State Park is an ideal place to start and end your Lake Superior Circle Tour,” a park brochure from the 1960s read. “In addition, its picturesque setting, fine facilities, and nearby recreational opportunities invite a more-lengthy stay.”

There are several state-managed sites located relatively close to the park, where more recreation, including fishing, picnicking and boating, are found.

Visitors to the Munuscong River State Rustic Campground provides opportunities to watch wildlife, fish, boat and camp. The campground is located a mile upstream from Munuscong Bay and the St. Marys River.

Eight miles of non-motorized trail comprise the Algonquin Pathway, situated 2 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie. Pine Bowl Pathway also offers just under 6 miles non-motorized trail, 3 miles east of Kinross.

The Conley Point boating access site constructed three years ago, offering anglers and boaters access to great fishing on the St. Mary’s River between the U.S. and Canada.

This northeastern end of the Upper Peninsula has a good many tourist attractions to visit including the Point Iroquois Lighthouse, located about 8 miles west of Brimley State Park.

The famous Soo Locks and the International Bridge are located 15 miles northeast of the state park. The Bay Mills Casino and Resort are 3 miles west of the Brimley State Park. Just over a mile southwest of the park is the Bay Mills-Brimley Historical Society and Wheels of History Museum.

Mackinac Island, St. Ignace and the Mackinac Straits are found less than an hour’s drive south of Brimley State Park. The ruins of a German POW camp and the Upper Peninsula’s first Civilian Conservation Corps camp at Raco are located not far from the state park.

Sault Ste. Marie has numerous restaurants, gas stations, shops and other places to find gifts, something to eat or other fun activities, like visiting the Kewadin Casino, the Tower of History and the Museum Ship Valley Camp or Rotary Island Park.

Whether it’s the beautiful sandy shore, the starlit nights, the international feel, the fine amenities or the convenience of a comfortable place to stay before embarking on trips short or long, Brimley State Park is beckoning.

For more information, contact the park at 906-248-3422 or visit www.mi.gov/brimley.