Sleeper State Park was the first state park in the Thumb. It has been a place to visit for over 95 years with an excellent beach and modern campsites. Named for Michigan Governor and local businessman Albert E. Sleeper, the park is one of two state parks in the Upper Thumb. Visitors can watch both sunrises and sunsets on Saginaw Bay, relax in the shade and seclusion under the tall oaks in the campground or roam the trails of the ancient dune forests. It’s one of the most widely visited parks in Southeast Michigan. The park contains impressive secrets in what is available for the veteran visitor.
#1 Sleeper State Park is Bigger than The Beach and Campground
Driving by the park, visitors immediately see the day-use picnic and beach area along the shoreline and the extensive 226 site campground across M-25 from the beach. That is a small slice of the park. Sleeper State Park has over 700 acres of wetlands, an ancient dune forest, a half mile of beautiful sandy beach and natural dunes guarding the shore.
Families and groups can spend the day swimming, kayaking, and playing at the beach. Then take a break and picnic in the shade under a thick cool canopy of oak trees. There are two handicap-accessible restrooms and changing areas with showers.
A large covered pavilion is available for rent steps away from the beach. It’s perfect if you have a large group, such as a family reunion. The beach area is known as an ideal spot for beach weddings and company picnics.
#2 Sleeper State Park was Named for A Local Leader Who Became Governor
In 1925, the woods, dunes, and beach we see today opened as a county park. By 1927, the State of Michigan acquired the property and called it Huron State Park. In 1944, a group of Huron County citizens petitioned the state to rename the Park. The park was renamed in honor of Albert E. Sleeper, a resident and business leader in the Thumb region.
Sleeper was governor of Michigan from 1917 until 1920. He signed into law the Michigan State Police, Women’s right to vote, and led through the end of World War I and the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. He was honored with the park name due to his role to help create Michigan’s State Park system. As of 1921, only 17 states had established state parks.
#3 You Can Camp in Relative Luxury Away from Everything Else
Sleeper State Park has arranged with a camping outfitter that offers people a more private and comfortable camping experience. It’s called “glamping”. Glamping is a concept where nature meets a bit of spacious luxury. A fusion of the words glamour and camping or “glamping” is a way to authentically experience a bit of remote rustic camping in unique locations.
The outfitter, Tentrr sets up prime secluded sites with a large platformed walled canvas tent containing a queen-sized cot or bunk bed, and a wood stove. Your camp is supplied with tables, benches, Adirondack chairs, and a campsite fire pit. Your on-site water supply and a sun shower round out the other amenities to make for an extremely comfortable outdoor experience. There are currently 15 secluded wooded and one beachside sites available.
The glamping experience is new to Michigan’s Albert E. Sleeper State Park and Highland Recreation Area starting the summer of 2020. More information about the Sleeper-Safari Tent program is on their website.
#4 There are Mountain Bike Trails in Sleeper State Park
One of the parks’ best-kept secrets is the extensive trail system located just south of the campground. Over four miles of marked trails are available for hiking, cross country skiing, (Which is groomed in the winter), and mountain biking.
The park has four marked trails; Candlestick Trail is short at just over a half a mile, and it connects to the other parts of the trail system. The Deer Run Trail is a 2-mile loop, the longest of the trails that run through the park. The trailhead is located on State Park Road near the outdoor center, kitchen, and dining area on the south-eastern side of the park. Hiking, mountain biking, and cross country skiing are allowed. The Huron Trail is about a quarter of a mile and connects the Candlestick Trail to the Deer Run Trail.
If you are a little more adventurous, you can hike and bike in the adjacent 2000 acre Rush Lake State Game Area. There is a hiking trail with blue tree marks to stay out of the way of the off-road vehicle, (ORV), of ATVs and Jeeps exploring Sand Road.
#5 You Can Try Kayaking at Sleeper State Park Beach
Saginaw Bay is known for its sea kayaking areas. Explore the islands and inlets of Wild Fowl Bay or paddle along the sugar sand shoreline. Just a bit further north in Port Austin is two well-known Kayaker destinations of Turnip Rock and Broken Rocks. Sleeper State Park beach is also a stop on the 100-mile Tip of the Thumb Heritage Water Trail. The beach at Sleeper State Park is a perfect place to try out kayaking for the first time or to show others how it’s done. Kayaks are available for rent at the beach. For more information visit Michigan’s Sleeper State Park website from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
#6 There are archaeological Significant Sites in the Park
In a Stewardship report made in 1995 by the Michigan DNR, it noted that the potential exists for prehistoric sites in the park. Similar land formations have proven in the nearby Rush Lake State Game Area, where 36 sites have been recorded. These include prehistoric sites, as well as nineteenth and twentieth-century historic sites. Three more sites exist west of the park. One of these was found to be a large multi-component site. Its thought that smaller sites related to this large site are located in Sleeper State Park.
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#7 You can See Both the Sunrise and the Sunset on the Beach
The park is uniquely situated such that visitors can view both sunrise and sunset during the
peak season during the summer. This unique experience can also be seen at Port Crescent State Park and on the break wall at nearby Port Austin.
#8 You Can Buy a Latte or Smoothie at the Sleeper Campground
If you get a hankering for a Latte or Frappuccino when you’re camping you’re in luck. We found the “Chuck Wagon” waiting for us in the Albert E. Sleeper State Park campground area. It’s an open-air bar with seating for 12 people. They offer coffee, frappe, and smoothies. This is a mobile food truck part of Chucks Drive-Thru Diner in Caseville. This mobile bar may move on from time to time especially during the Cheeseburger Festival.
#9 – You Can Camp On The Beach At Sleeper State Park
Starting in the summer of 2020 Albert E. Sleeper State Park offers the ability to camp on the beach. The Michigan DNR is working with the camping outfitter, Tentrr to set up 15 secluded glamping sites between sites in the forest and on the beach. Each has a large platformed walled canvas tent containing a queen-sized cot or bunk bed.
Each beach campsite at the park is supplied with tables, benches, Adirondack chairs, and a fire pit. There are an on-site water supply and a sun shower provided to round out the other amenities to make for an extremely comfortable outdoor experience. Guests need only bring your own food, firewood, and bedding. This outfitted option is great for first-time or busy campers who may not have their own camping gear and don’t want the hassle of setting up and tearing down your campsite.
The views are beautiful and the experience of going to sleep lulled by the sound of the waves of Saginaw Bay is not to be missed.
#10 Many of the Park’s Buildings Were Built During the Great Depression
The first buildings at Sleeper were a product of the Great Depression. In the early 1930s, workers fro the Civilian Works Administration and the Public Works Administration built the park’s first modern toilet and shower building near what was then the beach area campground. A second beach building built in 1933, served the day-use area and included changing rooms, restrooms and a checkroom, a park store, and upstairs apartments for the park rangers and their families. In 1981 the second story was removed and the building turned into the current Pavillion.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sleeper State Park Beach has a designated Dog Play Area on the west end of the beach. It’s required that your dog remains on a leach, even in the water. Waste bags and the receptacle is provided. Upon entering the Sleeper picnic/beach area, take a left. Head all the way to the end of the parking lot. You will see a boardwalk leading to the Dog Play Area on the Beach.
Sleeper State Park is located adjacent to Rush Lake State Game Area. One of the many state game areas in Huron County. It’s a 2000 acre reserve with forest, marsh and Rush Lake which you can fish in.
The nearest public boat launch ramp is located at Caseville Marina. The launch is located in town behind the business district in Caseville Harbor. There are also transient and seasonal slips available during your stay at Sleeper campground.
Yes! WiFi is available in the main campground. However the coverage area and where the signal strength is best is unknown.
Related Reading for Albert E. Sleeper State Park Camping
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