This is the Largest State Park in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula
It may be the third largest state park in the entire state of Michigan, but this the absolute largest in the lower peninsula.
Covering over 20,000 acres, it's the Waterloo Recreation Area. It's very familiar to many Mid-Michiganders who spent their summers scoping out the opposite sex at Big Portage Lake, swimming in Clear Lake, and camping at Sugarloaf Lake...not to mention fishing, hiking, biking, picnicking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. With eleven lakes and countless trails, the area has entertained generation after generation.
Located within Jackson County's Waterloo Township (and partly in Washtenaw County), the area's first settler was Hiram Putnam in 1834. When the township was organized two years later, it was given the name East Portage. In 1837, postmaster Patrick Hubbard made it a point to change the name to 'Waterloo', after the infamous 1815 battle where Napoleon met defeat.
WATERLOO TIMELINE (from Jackson County History)
1836: First sawmill built
1837: The village of Waterloo's post office opens in July
1837: Native Americans driven out of the area
1837: First Waterloo marriage between Lathrop Hubbard & Christina Croman
1838: Grist mill constructed
1839: Martin Landis Sr. becomes the first death in Waterloo
1843: Unusually cold winter kills cattle and freezes deer
1852: Laubengier mill built
1866: Cider mill erected and begins operating
1925: Post office closes
By the 1840s, the village of Waterloo had a blacksmith, two churches, general store, post office, five sawmills, schoolhouse, and wagon shop. The township had a total of ten schoolhouses.
Before the Indians left in the late 1830s, they had one last party. Approximately ten warriors got together, found a German pipe, stuffed it with kinnikinnick, and smoked it. Kinnikinnick is a Native American smoking mixture, usually made with various types of leaves and bark. It may or may not cause a 'high' effect, but it was usually used for peace pipes. After passing the pipe around, they left and never came back.
In the 2000s, the village of Waterloo might have a couple of stores left, but it's definitely not what it once was...but it's still interesting to drive through.
So to wrap up, not only is Waterloo Recreation Area the largest state park in Michigan's lower peninsula, but the village of Waterloo is very historic. A visit to any place in the area is encouraged.
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