Located in Michigan’s beautiful Irish Hills, WJ Hayes State Park is a 654-acre park sitting between two lakes with plenty to offer! As one of the oldest state parks in Michigan, it’ll charm you with its rolling green hills and great amenities. Explore one of southeast Michigan’s best state parks!
Accommodating to any type of camping, this campground in Onsted, MI, has spots for tents, RVs, and offers cabins for rent. Each campsite has electrical hookups, a picnic table, and a fire ring. For the RVers, you’ll find a 40-foot asphalt pad to park your rig on, and a sanitation station for your tanks!
Each area of the campground has a playground for the kids and horseshoe courts scattered throughout. Modern bathrooms and showers are found in the campground but are said not to be the cleanest. This park gets very busy due to its close location to the Michigan International Speedway, so we can see how these areas may get pretty dirty. Parking around the site can get a little tough for this same reason, so drive slowly. Many guests have reported that this can become more of a party campground and can get a bit loud, so if you’re going during the racing season, you may want to consider what type of camping trip you’re looking for.
Things to Do at the Park
This park has tons to do without ever leaving! With two lakes, a baseball diamond, and more, you won’t run out of activities!
Wamplers Lake is the largest lake located in the park and is great for swimming and boating! You can sunbathe at the beach and take advantage of the picnic shelters if desired. During the summer, there are even concessions!
Round Lake is the smaller lake in the park, located closer to the campground. This lake has an awesome pier that is perfect for fishing. You’ll find Bullhead, Carp, Crappie, Large-Mouth Bass, Northern Pike, Sunfish, and Yellow Perch swimming around and you can even rent a boat to head out in.
If you have kids, then this park is for you! WJ Hayes State Park has free children’s programs in the summer! Previous programs and events include an outdoor youth jamboree, archery classes, fishing instruction, nature hikes, and kayak lessons! They develop a new schedule with exciting programs each year!
Bring your metal detector along to this park, as there are several areas that are available for detecting. Just be sure to respect the areas and don’t go digging for treasures where it’s not allowed.
Irish Hills History
The area is called Irish Hills because its rolling hills and grassy areas reminded the early settlers very much of Ireland. In the 19th century, it took five days to travel between Detroit and Chicago, and this was a popular stop for many travelers. This area quickly became a tourist attraction and many shops and attractions were built. In fact, highway US 12, which runs through Irish Hills, was once loaded with roadside thrills! Once I-94 opened, many of these places shut down because the traffic was diverted away from them and business dropped off. If you’re interested in ghostly, abandoned places, check out US 12 in the Irish Hills.
Built in 1963, this amusement park was a great place for educational fun! You could take a train ride through the woods where you could see tons of prehistoric statues! You could hop off and take a guided hike for more information of the creatures you could see. The park was sold in 1997 and closed down in 1999. Today it is an eerie place littered with broken and damaged dinosaurs and foliage overgrowth. Vandals have destroyed most of what was left, knocking over dinosaurs and breaking limbs off of them.
Irish Hills Towers
The story behind the towers is amusing. In an attempt to boost tourism, the first tower was opened in 1924 with the idea of giving tourists a platform from where they could see much of the surrounding area. In order to acquire the land for the tower, the Michigan Observation Company requested to purchase land from a local farmer named Edward Kelly, who turned down the proposal. They then purchased the land next to it from Thomas Brighton and when the tower was opened, people flocked to it! Seeing this, Edward Kelly decided to build his own tower, just feet away from the original one. Sometime in the 1950s, they were both purchased by Frank Lamping, who connected them at the bottom with a gift shop. They have changed ownership several times since then and were eventually closed to the public in 2000 and deemed unsafe in 2013. Today the Irish Hills Historical Society is working on raising funds to save these beloved landmarks. However, since demolition had already begun on them, they sit there partially torn down and overlooking US. We think they just add to the eeriness of US 12.
Thankfully, not everything in the Irish Hills area is closed and abandoned! Located about five miles from Hayes Park is the Michigan International Speedway where you can catch motor racing, concerts, and NASCAR races! They have a special “Kids Zone” where kids can participate in fun activities like changing a tire!
Events are always happening around the Irish Hills, so no matter when you visit, there will be something going on. January brings the Ice Sculpture Festival in Tecumseh where you can see ice carving demonstrations, sculptures, and live entertainment! May brings the Michigan Wine and Beer Fest which offers a celebration of great beer and wine from Michigan! Catch a country concert in July at the Faster Horses Country Music Festival with various famous artists each year. These are just a few of the amazing events you can find in this area and you can find the full list on the Lenawee County Conference & Visitors Bureau website.