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Paddle the day away on Lake Gogebic

A group of kayakers take paddle on the waves of Lake Gogebic. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources photo)

In the mid to late 19th century, the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway had established a station at Lake Gogebic, the area was known then for its mining, and the small locality boasted a population of 40 souls.

The U.S. Postal Service office here was dubbed “Ballentine” in honor of its first postmaster. Before eventually being called Lake Gogebic, the post office would also be called Korelock, beginning in 1911.

The Milwaukee, Lakeshore and Western Railroad came to the area and built a hotel resort in 1884.

Of course, all of this activity, and a good deal more, was taking place amid the cool breezes off the 13,380-acre lake, which stretches from Ice House Bay in Gogebic County north past Porcupine Point to just shy of the Bergland Dam in Ontonagon County — covering a distance of more than 12 miles.

Today, within the Gogebic County section, west of Big Bear Bay, is situated Lake Gogebic State Park, which encompasses 360 acres, with nearly a mile of frontage on the big boot-and-leg-shaped lake.

The beach at Lake Gogebic State Park has been a popular place to swim for decades. In this photo, park visitors enjoy the water in 1950. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources photo)

“Located on the edge of an extensive upland area set in the heart of the Ottawa National Forest, Lake Gogebic State Park is an ideal point from which to explore the western Upper Peninsula,” the park’s website explains. “Many points of interest are within easy reach of the park. Bond Falls and Agate Falls are to the east, the beautiful falls and rapids of the Black River and Presque Isle River to the northeast and the magnificent Porcupine Mountains and Lake Superior to the north.”

There is a wide range of activities available at the park from swimming and paddling to hiking, fishing (especially walleyes) and metal detecting. The Lake Gogebic Forest Trail is situated here too – a 2-mile pathway through the true backcountry of the western Upper Peninsula, associated with the park and good for birdwatching.

There are also opportunities here for picnicking, horseshoe pitching and volleyball.

Facilities at the park include a beach house, boating access ramp, a picnic shelter, modern restrooms, a group use area and about 30 lakeshore campsites with the rest situated not more than 100 yards from Lake Gogebic.

The unincorporated community of Marenisco is located a few miles to the southeast of the park on the Presque Isle River. Founder E.H. Scott, who held large holdings of timberlands in the area during the 1800s, named the place for his wife, borrowing letters from her first, middle and last name, which was Mary Enid Scott.

A park visitor enjoys a camping trip to Lake Gogebic State Park in Gogebic County. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

Side trips to Wisconsin are easy to make from the park. Other destinations within easy reach include the Ottawa National Forest, numerous off-road vehicle trails and miles of great streams for fishing.

A waterfalling tour would be an interesting day trip. Bond Falls and Agate Falls are state scenic sites located along the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River. Each are associated with trails and viewing platforms to help visitors enjoy the waterfalls. In addition, there is a series of waterfalls along the Presque Isle River at the western end of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

There are other state parks in the area, within a day trip’s distance, including Twin Lakes, Bewabic and Baraga.

DNR staffers manage 15 boating access sites from the park, which are situated in Iron, Ontonagon and Gogebic counties.

“A few of the interesting ones are the Cisco Chain of Lakes, of which, we operate launches on Thousand Island, Cisco and Clearwater lakes,” said James Peace, lead ranger at Lake Gogebic State Park. “The Cisco Chain is the headwaters of the Ontonagon River Cisco Branch, which later becomes the South Branch, and marks the boundary of the Lake Superior watershed and the Wisconsin River, flowing to the St. Lawrence Seaway and Gulf of Mexico, respectively.”

Bond Falls, located on the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River, is one of the state-managed waterfalls within an hour’s drive of Lake Gogebic State Park. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

According to an interpretive sign at the state park, the name of the lake is derived from the local Ojibwa who called it “Akogib.” “Akogibing” referred to someone or something at, from or to lake Akogib.

With white settlement of the region, Akogibing gradually became the English word “Agogebic,” and finally Gogebic. The state park was established at the southwest end of the lake on Big Bear Bay in 1926. It opened to the public four years later.

The true meaning of “Gogebic” has been debated for decades and may never be known with certainty. Some of the interpretations have included Smooth Rock, Place of the Falling Leaves, Body of Water Hanging on High, Green Lake and Place Where Trout Rise to the Surface, Creating Ripples on the Water.

Lake Gogebic State Park is celebrating Michigan’s state parks centennial this year, along with the state’s other 102 parks. Visit Michigan.gov/StateParks100 to what’s in store.

A trio of park visitors prepares for an afternoon out on the water at Lake Gogebic State Park. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources photo)