Michigan Roadside: Jenks Park


When I was growing up we would road trip all over the Great Lakes. Mom would pack a picnic basket and around noon Dad would pull off and have a break and a bite to eat. As poor college students we continued in this fashion. We would pack cold chicken, a salad, chips, some beer and pop and have a picnic feast. I realized that we have not tailgated while on a road trip in many years. It’s gotten too easy to find quick food at a carry out place.

Michigan led the nation with the development of roadside parks. In 1918 the Iron County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of land to establish Michigan’s first roadside park and picnic tables on US-2. This was quite likely America’s first such facility. 

This past weekend I was traveling up to the hardware in Port Austin and spied an official State of Michigan roadside park. I pulled into Jenks Park just outside Port Austin.  



It’s charming. Picnic tables and grills overlook commanding views of Saginaw Bay. It’s not a bathing beach so the water laps right up to un groomed sea grass and poplar trees that grow wild on the waterfront.  


 


There is bathroom facilities and an honest-to-God hand water pump.  


 


It’s worth a stop if only to take in the sites and think of times gone by. Jenks Park is one of four MDOT roadside parks in Huron County.  The others are:

  • Brown – South of Bay Port. It has an historical Marker for “The Great Fire of 1881.” A million acres were devastated in Sanilac and Huron counties. 
  • Thompson Scenic Turnout – Features 2 large grindstones and access to sandy beach on Saginaw Bay, picnic tables
    and benches.
  •  White Rock – Great views of Lake Huron and White Rock. Steps to beach, observation deck, walking trails connecting to non-motorized path on M-25. White Rock is a large, white, off-shore boulder used as a boundary marker to define the territory released by the Native American tribes of Michigan to the United States under the Treaty of Detroit in 1807. 

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5 thoughts on “Michigan Roadside: Jenks Park”

  1. When I first moved to the Thumb, this was the beach went to to swim and picnic. It was very rocky in the shallows but the seagrass did not go right to the water, it was all on the hill that overlooked the water. I was surprised the last time i was there at how it had changed (i think due to the lack of use and beach grooming). Still a beautiful place but I miss the sandy beach that it used to have.

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