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Boondocking across Michigan’s UP

| Updated Jun 16, 2023

It's been a week without plugging into electricity as we've traveled across the UP, enjoying the beautiful colors and staying in remote or near empty state and federal campgrounds. And it's been glorious.

We spent four days with a group of other Roadtrekers in the primitive (no hookups) Presque Isle campground in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. You can read about that in this previous post.

But instead of heading straight home, Jennifer and I decided to boondock our way back, taking our time and checking out backroad camping spots for future visits.

Our first spot Thursday was the Indian Lake State Park, north of Manistique. The park had electric hookups but with 650 watts of solar panels and our huge bank of lithium batteries on our Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL, we seldom need to plug in. Our spot was quiet and lakefront, with no one near us.

The temperature dropped overnight to 27 degrees but we were warm and cozy and most appreciative of the heated floors from our Roadtrek's Alde hydronic heating system


Indian Lake
Indian Lake

Friday morning, we drove a half dozen miles to the northwest to the Palm Book State Park to visit one of our favorite UP stops and one of Michigan's most alluring natural attractions — Kitch-iti-kipi — The Big Spring.

I turned the huge wheel that pulled the observation raft across the spring
I turned the huge wheel that pulled the observation raft across the spring

There is no camping here but it's a must see any time you are in the area, no matter how many times you have seen it. Two hundred feet across, the 40-foot deep Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan's largest freshwater spring. Over 10,000 gallons a minute gush from fissures in the underlying limestone. The flow continues throughout the year at a constant 45 degree Fahrenheit.


The beauty of the Pal m Brook State Park's
The beauty of the Palm Brook State Park's Kitch-iti-kipi Spring

Frost was still on the ground as we arrived and the water was as flat as glass, perfectly mirroring the towering cedars as oaks that line its back. Jennifer and I and Bo were the only ones to get on the self-piloting raft that takes you slowly across the spring, allowing you to look down in the crystal clear water. Huge lake trout circled below us as the bubbling spring created ever-changing shapes and forms.

Huge Lake Trout can be seen in Kitch-iti-kipi's crystal clear water
Huge Lake Trout can be seen in Kitch-iti-kipi's crystal clear water

From there, we made our way into Manistique and the first of Bo's many hikes. The city has a great boardwalk and paved tril that parallels Lake Michigan. Its a perfect way to sretch your legs after lots of time behind the wheel

A half hour down the road, we came to the first boondocking spot to check out – the Big Knob State Forest Campground,  six miles south of US-2. We were stunned at the beauty of the place and just played there for a couple of hours. Not a soul was there and we had our pick of 23 sites, several of which backed up to a sandy trail leading to Lake Michigan and one of the longest stretches of wild an undeveloped shoreline we have ever seen on that Great Lake.

The beach at Big Knob State Campground
The beach at Big Knob State Campground

Because we were alone, I let Bo off leash and he romped and frolicked in the water and sand as Jennifer and I explored. This is one of the nicest boondocking campgrounds we have ever seen and we never knew it existed, even though we have driven past it dozens of times. Maybe because of the long, curving six mile road leading through the woods, we never thought of turning off the state highway.

We would have gladly spent the night but we wanted to push east and check out the several other state campgrounds off US-2,

The path at Big Knob leading from the campsite to the beach
The path at Big Knob leading from the campsite to the beach

Next stop for us was the Black River campground, located seven miles northeast of the small town of Naubinway. It has 12 sites for tents or small trailers or Class B motorhomes but it was also empty when we arrived. We never could find the river and it looked like it would be very buggy in the summer. We hiked around for a half hour before moving on.

From there it was the Little Brevoort Lake State Campground. There are two units here, a south and north unit. We visited the north unit, of about 20 sites. Several were right on the shore. There were also tenters on two of the sites. We wanted solitude so we moved on, eventually coming to the larger Brevoort Lake Campground, located in the Hiawatha National Forest.

Little Brevort Lake
Little Brevoort Lake

That's where we are now as I write this post. The place is all-but-deserted.   One reason it's so empty (there are only a handful of other campers in the 66-site camp ground) is that the whole campground gets shut down for the season tomorrow.

This is another place to add to our favorite boondocking spots, though I am sure getting lakefront spots like we did would be much more challenging in the summer.

Our campsite at Indian Lake State Park. They had electric hookups here but we never plugged in because our batteries had all the power we needed
Our campsite at Indian Lake State Park. They had electric hookups here but we never plugged in because our batteries had all the power we needed

But tonight, we have it almost to ourselves.

There's a near full moon, a just-right nip in the fall air, and the beautiful solitude that comes from being in the wilderness.

There are no hookups here but there is a modern bathhouse with flush toilets and running water, though no showers. The campground is located about 20 miles west of St. Ignace a ew miles off US-2. It has water on both sides,  stretchings along the shore of Boedne Bay and onto a peninsula that divides the bay from the rest of Brevoort Lake.  Boasting many waterfront sites, it is part of the larger Brevoort Lake Recreation Area that contains a day use and picnic area, a camp store, and a boat launch.

From site 45, we watched the sun set over the nay out the back window of our Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL and the moon rise over the lake out the front window.


The moon over the bay
The moon over Brevoort ake

So that's where we are now, about to end our fall getaway to the UP.

Bo is stretched out on the big new cushy bed we bought him at the Stormy Kromer store up in Ironwood, exhausted from a week of hikes and outdoor fun. I think he'd like us to move up here


Bo sleeping on his new bed
Bo sleeping on his new bed

Tomorrow, we'll head back below the Mackinac Bridge to what the Yoopers up here call the land of the trolls.

But like every other UP trip we've taken, it has been a great week.

We'll be back up here in January for our annual winter campout at Tahquamenon Falls.


Mike Wendland

Published on 2016-10-15

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

One Response to “Boondocking across Michigan’s UP”

October 16, 2016at10:19 pm, Bill said:

Big Spring is one of my families favorite spots and it must be breath taking in the fall. Those big lake trout near the bottom look really well fed. The UP in the fall is on my bucket list for next year.

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