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Lake Gogebic State Park

Lake Gogebic State Park

In 1926, seeing a need for public recreation service, Gogebic County, through its board of County Park trustees obtained land on Lake Gogebic and deeded it to the State. E. J. Stickley and W. Bonafas donated additional property, and in 1930 the Lake Gogebic State Park was opened to the public. It is set in the midst of the million-acre Ottawa National Forest and provides visitors with excellent fishing, hunting, hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities in literally every direction. The park itself is 360 acres with almost a mile of lake frontage.

The park is located on M-64 on the west shore of Lake Gogebic about nine miles north of US-2 or eight miles south of M-28. The park has 101 modern campsites, with several pull-throughs. There are also 26 semi-modern campsites and 60 picnic tables in the day use area. The camping facilities include flush toilets, showers, sanitation station, on-site host and/or hostess and playground, and 20 or 30 amp electric hookups. The day use area includes a paved boat launch for almost any size boat, natural sandy beach for swimming (no lifeguard), grills, playground, shelter building (available for rent for special occasions) and a self-guided hiking interpretative trail.

In the summer of 1962 two grave site stones were discovered about 100 feet from the lake edge. Apparently moss for years covered the stones and they went unnoticed. One stone has chiseled “1822 JOHN KEY,” the other (16 feet away) “1824 WHITH.” After viewing these stones, Victor Lemmer, a local historian, started investigating. A careful search was made of pertinent records in the National archives, including records of the Office of Indian Affairs and the Office of Indian Trade, as well as of the correspondence of Lewis Cass in his capacity as superintendent of the Michigan Superintendent of Indian Affairs. They found no mention of either name. However, in a letter to the then-park manager, Alan Billings, a research archivist George May of the Michigan historical commission wrote of a “John Key”; “Of course, there were no settlements of white men in the area until much later in the 19th century. It is possible that John Key and Whith were fur traders or had other dealings with Indian tribes in the area.” In checking the Pioneer and Historical Collections, Mr. May found that a John Key was mentioned as being a passenger on His Majesty’s vessel “The Welcome” which arrived at Mackinac Island July 29, 1780. Perhaps this is the John Key who must have found his way to Lake Gogebic, died there, and is buried beneath the stone engraved: “1822 JOHN KEY.” No information on a “WHITH” has been found. You can view these stones in the park where the Michigan Department of Conservation has placed a marker.

For more information about the Lake Gogebic State Park, call (906) 842-3341 during the months of May through October, or (906) 885-5275 during November through April. Camping reservations can be made by calling (800) 44-PARKS or online www.midnrreservations.com

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