Northern Michigan in Focus: Voyageur Island Park

We know Northern Michigan is a beautiful place to live, but have you ever really gone exploring?

There’s a small island near Sault Ste. Marie that few have heard of, and now you can visit.

Chief photojournalist Corey Adkins takes us there in this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.

 “This is Voyageur Island Park,” said Dennis Dougherty, Voyageur Island Park.

If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone.

Just two years ago the island was run down, overgrown and abandoned.

“Basically, the trails had grown over, the people who lived here back in the 40s or 50s or whatever it was probably had all kinds of trails here, but we had a hard time finding them,” Dennis explained. 

It’s an asset the city of Sault Ste. Marie has owned for decades, but could never really agree on what they should do with it.

“It sat here for many years, and there were proposals through the years to do something with it but they were very expensive,” Dennis said.  

But Dennis and about 70 other volunteers couldn’t stand to see the natural beauty of this little, hidden island go to waste.

“We had volunteers who could come out and save tens of thousands of dollars in contract labor, just by volunteering to cut the trails, build the dock systems, the toilet systems, put in boardwalks. Free of charge, labor wise, so all we had to do was raise money for material,” Dennis explained.

Now, it’s on its way to becoming a must-see destination in Northern Michigan.

But if you want to explore this little piece of paradise, you’ll have to paddle your way there.

“Not just paddleboards; canoe, kayak or paddleboard, and the reason is that we knew that people were getting more into sports like this and I just thought this is kind of the right time to do it,” said Dennis. 

You can grab a kayak or paddleboard rental on the mainland at Bird’s Eye Outfitters and, once you get to the island, it’s even equipped with special docks so everyone can enjoy this unique place.

“Whether they have bad knees, or hips, or whatever, handicapped in any way, you could get in by using side assist bars and overhang bars and get into your kayak,” Dennis noted.  

The paddle there is only half the fun.

Once you’ve reached Voyageur Island, the possibilities are endless for voyaging visitors.

“Two or three weeks ago when I came onto the island, I looked down in the mud and I saw a big moose print, so we know there’s animals or deer all over here,” said Dennis. 

Wilderness trails, scenic overlooks and even a little glimpse into the island’s past, there’s something new to see or learn around every corner.

“I think if you’re looking to get out and just do something in the summertime, get you out of the normal routine, this is a unique experience to come here and walk the trails,” Dennis encouraged. 

And while this project is just beginning its voyage, we have Dennis and his army of volunteers to thank for this slice of pure Michigan perfection.

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