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General Information

Waterloo Recreation Area is the largest state park in the Lower Peninsula boasting 11 lakes.
Copyright: - Michigan State Parks & Forests
Waterloo Recreation Area is the largest state park in the Lower Peninsula boasting 11 lakes.
Description - Waterloo Recreation Area is the third largest park in Michigan with much of the land encompassing northeastern Jackson County and portions of Washtenaw County. Eleven lakes, miles of multi-use trails, three campgrounds and plenty of other outdoor activities attract visitors to this gently rolling hardwood forest dotted with open meadows and several large wetland areas. The mixed habitats are home to white-tailed deer, pheasant, quail, grouse, woodcock, rabbit, and squirrel.

Volunteer partnerships with the Department of Natural Resources are instrumental to Waterloo's success. The Waterloo Natural History Association sponsors projects and provides services complimentary those offered by the state. The Waterloo Horsemen's Association works in cooperation with the state for the promotion and maintenance of the horse camp and horse trails.

Attractions - With the size of this park, 21,000 acres, there are outdoor attractions that suit nearly every taste, age, and ability.

There are three campgrounds, two modern and one rustic. In total 434 campsites provide a pleasant overnight destination. Sugarloaf operates during summer months only; Green Lake operates from mid May to December 1. Winter camping is available at Big Portage Lake. The modern campgrounds have bathhouses, electric hookup, sanitation station, boat launch access, and swimming beach. Big Portage Campground has a camp store and a large tent camping area for youth groups with leaders. No reservations can be made by individuals for this area, only by groups. Call 1-800-44-PARKS to make reservations at the Portage Lake or Sugarloaf Campgrounds.

For those campers who are looking for a shelter they don't have to pitch themselves, rustic cabins offer a great alternative. They have bunk beds, an outhouse, and a water pump. There is no electric and no showers. If you want to experience pioneer life, rustic cabins are a great place to "rough it" in moderation. Reservations are required.

Big Portage Lake day use area has tables, grills, water, restrooms, and a picnic shelter which may be reserved. Hours of operation are 8 AM - 10 PM daily. The Big Portage swimming beach is open from 8 AM - 8 PM with a beach store open during the warm summer months. Look for a sign bearing a picnic table symbol which will identify smaller picnic areas.

The Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center is managed through a unique partnership between the Department of Nature Resources (DNR) and the Waterloo Natural History Association (WNHA). The center is a haven for nature study offering year-round exhibits and programs featuring Michigan's geologic history, today's ecosystems, and local flora and fauna. The center is open to school groups, organizations and the general public. The WNHA sponsors projects and provides services complimentary to DNR including such favorites as the annual Maple Sugar Festival and Sandhill Crane Celebration. Call the center to schedule a guided tour or learn about an upcoming event. In addition to the interpretive programs sponsored by WNHA, the volunteer group provides and maintains a warming hut for wintertime visitors.

Waterloo Recreation Area has eleven lakes with nearly 50 miles of trail intertwined. Anglers will find a variety of boating and fishing opportunities. Fish species in most lakes include bass and pan fish, however, northern pike populations exist in Clear, Little Portage, Mill, Sugarloaf and the Wimmewana Impoundment. Lakes Clear, Doyle, Little Portage and Merkle are accessible by foot only across state land. Fishing piers are located on Big Portage and Crooked lakes. Sugarloaf Lake has state owned access limited to campers and a privately owned access site. Boat rental is available at Big Portage Lake only.

More than 47 miles of hiking trails are offered over a network of earthen paths ranging from short mile hikes to the 23-mile Waterloo Trail. There are 5 miles of mountain bike trail, 7 for cross-country skiing, and 15 for horseback riding. Users are requested to remain on their designated trail.

In addition to 15 miles of equestrian trail, the park is a popular destination for horse enthusiasts. Several years ago, the Department of Natural Resources was unable to properly fund an equestrian area. As a result, in 1996 the Waterloo Horsemen's Association was borne. The park now boasts an active volunteer group that works in partnership with the state park system. Their goal is the promotion of equestrian sports and the development and maintenance of the horse camp and horse trails. This organization sponsors year-round cleaning, maintenance, and construction projects that benefit the general equestrian community. To reach the horsemen's camp and staging area travel Interstate 94 to the Clear Lake Road exit. Head north several miles turning right onto Loveland Road. When the road bends left, watch for the camp and staging area on the left.

The Waterloo Recreation Area is open to hunting for all species including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, pheasant, quail, grouse, woodcock, rabbit, and squirrel. The park does permit early goose season beginning September 1. State regulations apply.

Recreation - Bountiful recreations are offered at Waterloo: nearly 500 campsites, cabin lodging, lake swimming, canoeing, boating, waterskiing, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, horse camping, nature study, guided nature tours, hunting, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.

Climate - Southeast Michigan is the warmest region in the state with summer temperatures averaging 70 degrees F (above 21 degrees C) but it is not infrequent for days to reach the high 80s. Winter temperatures are warmer as well with averages hovering just below freezing. Yearly moisture amounts range between 18 - 32 inches.

Location - The recreation area is located four miles west of Chelsea. Travel Interstate 94 to exit 156 (Kalmbach), go north and follow the signs to park headquarters on McClure Road.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I go to horsecamp well we went with sherrito ride our horses.I rode shadow and the view from the horse was beautiful ,I know next year I will probally be going there with a few friends and there horses .thanks for the fun years to come.

Filed By: Mick (Garden City, MI)
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I love Camping @Green Lake Rustic Campgound. The Best time to go is after Labor DAy. But During the Summer the Weekdays are usaully sparse and only during Holiday weekends is is unbareable. On the most part the camping there is secluded.

More Information

Contact Information:
Waterloo Recreation Area, 16345 McClure Road , Chelsea, MI, 48118, Phone: 734-475-8307, TTY: 517-335-4623

Additional Information:
Michigan Lakes and Rivers - Michigan is one of the most unique states in the nation boasting not only thousands of acres of interior natural lakes along with miles of waterways but also expansive shorelines that touch four of the five Great Lakes: Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie.
Michigan State Parks and Forests - Everything that makes Michigan special is embodied in the 96 State Parks. Boasting sterling recreation, Michigan State Parks and Forests invite you to enjoy one of their 14,000 campsites, 170 winter-sport areas and infinite rivers, streams, and lakes.
Southeast Michigan - Southeast Michigan, teaming with people also teams with recreation opportunities. Glacial activity left this Great Lakes region lush with hundreds of lakes, ponds, and marshes.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources - Official agency website.


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