Find your fortune in Iron County
The stillness of a morning on Fortune Lake at Bewabic State Park is something spectacular to experience.
This impressive lake reflects the sky, towering trees and grounds of the park along the shoreline like a perfect looking glass. A photograph taken through the clear, still waters here can easily produce a shining replica of the rocks on the bottom.
Add to this solitude, a fabulous swimming beach, a bridge leading to island adventure, the only state park in Michigan with tennis courts, camping, hiking, birdwatching, off-road vehicle access, historic stone and wood structures and more and you’ve got a spectacular place to visit and linger in the heart of Iron County.
The 315-acre park — located along U.S. 2, west of Crystal Falls and east of Iron River — has canoe rentals, wildlife viewing, metal detecting and paddle sports. Facilities include two playgrounds, a beach house, a 2-mile nature trail, boating access site and a picnic area, which includes a picnic shelter.
The park also has a 137-site campground situated in a shady, wooded location with buffer strips between most of the campsites to allow for privacy. Most sites have electricity, a fire ring and a picnic table.
Bewabic State Park is site No. 9 on the Iron County Heritage Trail System. The park is rich with Civilian Conservation Corps. history, which is evidenced by several CCC structures built during the 1930s still in use.
Camp Bewabic was organized by the CCC in 1935. The camp stood across the lake from the park, where the Fortune Lake Bible Camp remains in operation today. Starting off in tents, the CCC boys had constructed permanent quarters for themselves by November.
“The primary mission of the 3615th Company was the improvement of Bewabic Park, then county-owned,” an interpretive display at the park reads. “Under the direction of the National Park Service, 108 CCC enrollees began work at the park on a wide range of projects.”
The park was intended to remain rustic in all detail.
“Camp Bewabic was in operation until 1937, when it was closed by the National Park Service,” the display reads. “By then, most projects planned for Bewabic Park had been completed.”
The state of Michigan bought the park in 1966 and it became Bewabic State Park, one of nearly 20 state parks located in the Upper Peninsula.
Many of the structures the CCC boys built on the grounds, which are adorned by big tall trees and wide grassy lawn areas near the park gate, have been maintained in excellent condition.
These structures include a log picnic shelter and bathhouse, a large parking lot, one of the campgrounds and the stone entryway to the park. Smaller remnants are also in evidence from that time.
A tepee formerly erected at Baraga State Park is on the grounds at Bewabic and is available to reserve for camping. There are also beautiful woodlands to walk through and the blacktopped roads provide great avenues for walking after dinner or riding bicycles.
Fortune Lake is home to yellow perch, bass, bluegill and walleye to the delight of anglers. The lake and woods attract numerous bird species for watching and photographing.
Bewabic is one of Michigan’s state parks that offers fireworks-free Fourth of July, for a quieter Independence Day celebration appreciated by many military veterans.
Many other points of interest in the area are within easy reach, such as Horse Race Rapids, Chicaugon Falls, Pentoga Park — with its Ojibwe burial ground — the Iron Mountain Iron Mine and the Iron County Museum in Caspian.
In addition, there are more DNR-managed entities in the area, including numerous access points for boating along the area’s rivers. There are also state forest rustic campgrounds situated east and north of the park at Glidden and Deer lakes, respectively.
The campground at Glidden Lake, along with the Lake Mary Plains Pathway for hiking, are located 6 miles southeast of Crystal Falls. The park has fishing, boating and 23 rustic campsites available.
The Deer Lake State Forest Rustic Campground is located 17 miles north of Crystal Falls. The park has fishing and boating and a dozen campsites.
Not far from Bewabic State Park are gas, food, supplies and other amenities in Iron River and Crystal Falls. In this part of the U.P., U.S. 2 is not far from the Wisconsin border, with numerous trails, places to fish, hike, sightsee, photograph landscapes, wildlife and nature or explore the Ottawa National Forest.
Bewabic State Park is among the true gems of the Upper Peninsula, offering a wide range of activities and amenities geared to folks seeking several types of summertime getaways.
From a modern camping experience, swimming in the cool waters of Fortune Lake and geocaching and metal detecting, to sleeping in a tepee and walking the quiet paths through the hardwood forests, Bewabic State Park is a treasure waiting to be discovered.