Sterling State Park, Michigan

Sterling State Park is located in Monroe, Michigan, right off Interstate 75. There are 1300 acres to explore in this southeastern Michigan state park, which include a swimming beach. There is also boating, hiking and fishing. Sterling State Park is a great place to camp, whether in a tent or an RV.

Welcome to Sterling State Park. This is the campground registration building, the second stop on the way into the park. The first stop is the entrance a little way back where the entry/permit fees are paid. This park was dedicated in 1925 and is the only Michigan state park on Lake Erie.

There are 256 modern campsites at Sterling; this is campsite no. 18. The fire ring was clean upon arrival and there is electric here at the post. This spot is close to the beach, and as a result, it’s really windy. (Extra lashings on a tent fly are definitely called for.) The beach is just beyond the grasses.

This image shows more of the 47 acres of campsites at Sterling. Because Sterling is surrounded by such an urbanized area, this image also shows the Monroe power plant. Despite this, Michigan spent $17 million on upgrading the park in 2003. Exactly 79 camping sites at Sterling offer full hook-up.

There are six miles of trails for bicyclists and hikers at Sterling. This part of the trail is close to the beach. Sometimes, when the beach is experiencing a harmful algae bloom (hab), these paved trails are the best part of the visit. There are super views along the trail, which also leads outside the park.

This is the view of Sterling’s beach on Thursday evening, August 6, 2015. There is one mile of swimming beach here, and at the very southern end of the beach (not shown here), shoreline fishing is welcome. Just beyond the big shade trees is a volleyball net.

To the north of the beach is the Jerry C. Bartnik Memorial Boating Access Site, which is also close to the registration hut. The Michigan DNR website says this boat launch has 250 parking spaces, a fish cleaning station, and a modern restroom. Plus, access to all of the walleye in Lake Erie.

This is what the water looks like on a Yellow flag day. Yellow flags mean that water conditions, like currents, are rough, but not life-threatening. Red flags mean there are serious hazards in the water. Two Red flags mean that swimming is prohibited. Green flags mean that fewer hazards are present.

Unfortunately, there are no lifeguards at Sterling. There are life rings posted up-and-down the length of the beach. Visible in the water, just off-shore, are buoys marking the swim area. Typical for Lake Erie beaches, the water was fairly warm and somewhat choppy.

This playground is just steps from the beach. All of the day-use amenities are located within just steps of each other: a modern restroom facility, the hike/bike trail, and the beach, off course. The camping area is just a little ways further along the trail on the left.

This modern restroom facility is located right on the beach, also really close to the playground. There are picnic tables under this spacious shelter, and in the restrooms themselves there are nice changing areas. Showers are up in the campground.

The shower house at Sterling State Park is located in the center of the campground, somewhat far from the beach. This modern facility has a pop machine. There are parking spots here if campers want to drive from their campsites. There are informative notices posted on the bulletin board here.

This park map stands outside the shower house. The River Raisin is just to the south of the beach, and the Detroit River is (not shown here) is to the north. On the other side of this map is the state of Michigan, which includes the remote Isle Royale in Lake Superior, some 627 miles north.

Sterling has six miles of great hike/bike trails like this, criss-crossing the park. Tall grasses line the trails, plus wildflowers. Honeybees love the wildflowers here, and while it is best not to disturb them, they don’t seem to pay much attention at all to passers-by.

This bridge is along the hike/bike trail and offers a great view of everything. While on the bridge, some younger fishermen tried their luck at both ends of the bridge on the concrete anchors. Spiders also like this bridge, and it was fun to watch them weave their webs to catch some dinner.

This is the view from the bridge at Sterling looking out at the lagoon, on an early August evening. Though neither kayaks nor canoes are seen in this image, this is a great place for paddlecraft. There are several places along Sterling’s trails to put a canoe or kayak in the water.

This is another view from the trail footbridge at Sterling, and this fishing pier is also on the trail. Just over the viewline on the right is the campground, which is really close to the pier. There are no seats on this pier, so perhaps a lightweight camp chair would make for a more relaxing time.

Even if a fisherman doesn’t catch any walleye, the fishing pier is a great place to catch a view. This view looks south toward the Detroit Edison Power Plant in Monroe, Michigan. The Fermi II nuclear plant is visible from the beach and the Davis-Besse plant is 35 miles southeast in Port Clinton.

These green flecks are blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), and this algae can form harmful algae blooms (hab’s) in surface water, says the Ohio EPA. This algae produces toxins in the water and the air. HAB’s are fed by the phosphorus used as fertilizer in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Ontario.

There is algae in the water near the pier by the shore, but it is not at the front of the pier. (Motorized watercraft can stir up and aerosolize the algae.) If a HAB encroaches on the beach, it might be fun to instead hike the paved trails at Sterling. There is an important attraction just a few miles away . . .

. . . just three-and-a-half miles away from here is the River Raisin National Battlefield Park. Also called the Battle of Frenchtown, this battle occurred in January 1813 during the War of 1812. The Americans were routed by Brits, Canadians and American Indians. The story doesn't end there, however.

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