10 Endangered State Parks
They're beautiful, they're close to home, and they're steeped in history. But the best reason to vacation in one of our state parks? They're fast becoming an endangered species.
How to Help: Make a tax-deductible donation to a specific park or purchase a gift certificate (for camping fees, mooring fees, and merchandise) at michigan.gov.
Park Info: 8800 W. M-116, Ludington, Mich., 231/843-2423, michigan.gov, open daily 8 A.M.-10 P.M., admission $8.
Cache River State Natural Area
There are more famous swamps than the one in Cache River State Natural Area, a nearly 15,000-acre Illinois state park 30 miles from the Kentucky border. The Everglades, say, or Okefenokee. But who wants a crowd along? One of the northernmost examples of a true Southern swamp, the delightfully under-the-radar Cache River park gets only about 200,000 annual visitors—that's about one visitor per acre per month.
Other life forms aren't nearly so scarce here: The park's wetlands, floodplains, forests, and limestone barrens harbor more than 100 threatened or endangered species. It's best explored by canoe, along six miles of paddling trails that bring you face-to-face with massive tupelo and cypress trunks. There are also 20 miles of foot trails in the park and a floating boardwalk that leads to the center of Heron Pond, which is carpeted in summer with a bright-green layer of floating duckweed. BYO boat, or rent one from White Crane Canoe and Pirogue Rentals in Ullin, Ill., about 12 miles west (whitecranerentals.com, canoe rental $15 per person per day).
Where to Stay: A half-hour drive west of the park, Anna, Ill., has a handful
of antiques shops, a pottery museum, and the Davie School Inn, an 11-room, all-suite B&B in a converted 1910 schoolhouse (davieschoolinn.com, doubles from $100).
While You're There: Work in a detour to Metropolis, Ill., a.k.a. Superman's hometown. The Super Museum has more than 20,000 TV and movie props and other collectibles amassed by owner Jim Hambrick (supermuseum.com, admission $5).
How to Help: Join the Friends of the Cache River Watershed nonprofit (friendsofcache.org).
Park Info: 930 Sunflower Lane, Belknap, Ill., 618/634-9678, dnr.state.il.us, visitors center hours Wed.-Sun.
9 A.M.-4 P.M., admission free.
Red Rock State Park
When the grandest of canyons is in your backyard, it's easy to take your lesser landmarks for granted. That seemed to be the case in Arizona, which targeted 13 of its 22 parks for closure in 2010, including Red Rock.
Fortunately, not everyone was so quick to write off the little guys. Red Rock's lifeline arrived via the Yavapai County and City of Sedona governments and the Benefactors of Red Rock State Park, which jointly raised $240,000 to temporarily finance the park. That will keep this 286-acre nature preserve open at least until June 2013.
Among the best ways to take in the rust-colored canyon are the park's five miles of hiking trails and one mile for biking and horseback riding. Birding is big here, too: Every Wednesday and Saturday at 8 A.M. (7 A.M. in summer), guides lead aviary walks along the banks of Oak Creek, and guests can follow along with the park's checklist of feathered regulars: black-chinned hummingbirds, great blue herons, and the occasional yellow-billed cuckoo.
Everything in Red Rock is colorful!
Where to Stay: Sedona's hotels can be pricey, so try an apartment or casita rental on vrbo.com, with over 150 local listings—some under $100 per night.
While You're There: Get your massage fix. Sedona regulars favor Stillpoint...Living in Balance, naming its massage the "Best of Sedona" in a local poll the past four years (stillpointbalance.com, 70-minute massage $90).
How to Help: Visit benefactorsrrsp.org to make a donation, or sign up for a subscription to Arizona Highways magazine: $5 of the $24 cost will be directed to the park of your choice (arizonahighways.com).
Park Info: 4050 Red Rock Loop Rd., Sedona, Ariz., 928/282-6907, azstateparks.com, open daily 8 A.M.-5 P.M., admission $10 per car or $3 for individuals.