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Free fishing, state parks, boat access, ORV trails this weekend in Michigan

lighthouse at Tawas State Park
Entrance fees are waived this weekend Tawas State Park and other state parks in Michigan as part of the state’s “three free” promotion. (Shutterstock image)
  • On Saturday and Sunday, visitors can go to any state park to fish or go off-road-vehicles without a permit 
  • All licenses, recreational passports and motor vehicle permits will be waived for the weekend 
  • Residents are reminded to be extra careful when starting campfires because of fire danger concerns

Thousands of people are expected to visit Michigan parks this weekend and enjoy free outdoor activities like camping, fishing, hiking and off-road vehicle riding — although rain is predicted starting Sunday.

The first of two “three free” weekends is Saturday and Sunday, when free access is granted to the 103 state parks, as well as off-road vehicle trails and boat access sites.


Fees associated with off-road vehicle licenses/trail permits and fishing licenses are waived, and recreational passports and motor vehicle permits are not required for state park entry.  


About 35 million people visit state parks each year, an increase from 28 million in 2019. “Three free” weekends usually cause an uptick in visitors, said Ron Olson, chief of parks and recreation at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. 

Belle Isle, Holland State Park and Island Lake Recreational Area are the most popular state parks during free weekends.  North and South Higgins Lake State Parks are also expected to be hotspots.

“Some parks are very, very busy, so you might have to adjust your plans and have an Option B,” Olson said. 

As of late Friday, campground reservations were still available throughout the state, according to the DNR’s website.

As the Michigan continues to experience dry weather, Olson said residents should remain vigilant if they are camping and starting cooking or recreational fires. Much of northern Michigan remains in heightened alert for fire, but rain is forecast for Sunday and Monday.

In northern Michigan this weekend, temperatures are likely to reach the high 70s and low 80s before dropping into the 60s on Sunday.

“Be very careful with campfires because the fire danger is very high,” he said. “We’re telling people to … make sure when you’re done that you put it completely out and be extra careful with fires.” 


The next three free weekend is Aug.19 and 20. 

An ORV license is typically required to ride on county roads, frozen surfaces of public waters, state forest roads (open to ORV use) and eligible national forest roads. 

A trail permit in addition to an ORV license is required for state-designated ORV trails and scramble areas but not for private lands. 

Both can be purchased for $36.25 either online or at a DNR license agent or dealer. Licenses are valid through March 31 the following year.

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