Our SANCTUARY Starlight by
The Alpena area is home to three officially designated Dark Sky Preserve
Parks that have become sanctuaries for star gazers. These parks
are far away from the harsh effects of excessive artificial light pollution,
which negatively impacts ecosystems and tarnishes aesthetic environments.
This side effect of urbanization not only causes a disturbance
to the night sky above, but also to the mind and body by increasing the
risk of sleep disorders and depression.
As the world around us becomes more urbanized, dark skies become
more of a rarity. Since Alpena is a hundred or more miles away from
any major metropolitan area, a dark sky oasis is anything but scarce in
our Sanctuary of the Great Lakes. Celestial bodies, the Aurora Borealis,
and the band of the Milky Way are all easily visible from our dark sky
preserves when the conditions are right. Find your dark sky adventure
at one, or all three, of our nearby preserves; each one located on the
beautiful Lake Huron.
All three Dark Sky Preserves are free and open to the public. All you
need is a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Recreation Passport
for your vehicle. You can purchase one at each park (look for the
park pass kiosk/post) or at the Secretary of State office. For comfortable
dark sky stargazing bring a blanket, bug spray, flashlight covered
with a red paper or cloth, and your sense of wonder.
Rockport State Recreation Area
Rockport State Recreation Area is Michigan’s 100th state park with
4,237 acres and a wide variety of day to night activities. A 300-acre
abandoned limestone quarry provides Devonian Period fossils for a
fun fossil hunting experience as well as a bat hibernaculum, a unique
series of sinkholes, hiking and biking trails, and a deep-water protected
harbor perfect for fishing and swimming. Directions from Alpena: Drive
north on US-23 for approximately 9 miles until you see Opechee’s gas
station on the right. Turn right on Rockport Rd. just before Opechee’s,
drive all the way down to the end of the road and you are there!
Negwegon State Park
Negwegon State Park is located south of Alpena on US-23, with 10
miles of hiking trails and one of the most beautiful beaches along the
Lake Huron coastline. Mysterious, remote, undeveloped and both
rugged and pristine, this state park is considered a hidden treasure
amongst locals and tourists. Directions from Alpena: take Black River
road off US-23 to the east 1.5 miles, turn north on Sand Hill Rd. and
go 2.5 miles, turn right (or east) at the Negwegon State Park sign and
continue 1.5 miles to the day use parking area.
Thompson’s Harbor State Park
Thompson’s Harbor State Park is a natural area consisting of 5,000
acres of sand dunes, upland, and marsh. Thompson’s Harbor is also
considered one of the few 50 remaining examples of “forested wet
swale communities” of this quality, and is home to one of the largest
populations of federal and state-threatened dwarf lake iris, Michigan’s
state wildflower. Spend the day viewing nature or hiking the 6 miles
of rustic trails before the blanket of the night sky wraps around you.
Directions from Alpena: Drive north on US-23 to Presque Isle county
for approx. 24 miles. Turn right on Trailhead Rd. and go .6 miles before
making a slight left. Drive another 1.3 miles and you will see the entry
to the park.
Dark Sky Rockport State Recreation Area; Courtesy Paul Gerow