Northern Michigan resort promotes dark skies

Northern Michigan resort promotes dark skies

The Keweenaw Mountain Lodge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been accepted into the International Dark-Sky Association, the third dark sky park in the state.

Headlands International Dark Sky Park (established in 2011 in Mackinaw City) and the Dr T.K. Lawless International Dark Sky Park (established in 2019 in Jones) had been Michigan’s only internationally designated dark sky parks.

Such areas are becoming more popular in the United States as people become more interested in eco-tourism experiences, according to park attendance figures and Alan Dyer, an astronomy writer and photographer and producer of planetarium programs for the TELUS Spark Science Centre in Alberta, Canada.

The Keweenaw Peninsula has seen a drastic increase in park attendance, likely due to its entrance into the International Dark-Sky Association.

“People have a bucket list of amazing sights they want to see, like the Northern Lights or the Milky Way,” Dyer told USA TODAY.

Dyer described the night sky as one of the world's many wonders.

The night sky is less visible in urban settings because of the lights, so enthusiasts head to rural areas like the Upper Peninsula.

John Mueller, the interim general manager at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge in Copper Harbor, said he hopes more dark sky parks will join shortly.

“Right now, two other Michigan international parks are looking to join the [International Dark-Sky] Association, but interesting enough, because of certain legislation, state parks cannot join,” Mueller said.

Previous laws also stated that state parks that were recognized as dark sky areas couldn’t stay open past 10 p.m., creating a barrier between dark sky enthusiasts and night sky viewing.

“But, in the last two or three months, the laws changed, and state parks designated as dark sky areas can now stay open later than 10 p.m.,” he added.

Mueller said it looks like the legislation is moving in the right direction.

Although the process to join was rigorous, he says becoming part of the association was a great move for his lodge.

“This was a process we wanted to be part of,” Mueller said.

“Becoming a part of the association was just the byproduct of doing a great job.”

He described acceptance as a guiding force rather than an end goal.

“Even if it weren’t worth it [to join], we’d still be doing it,” Mueller said, referring to astrotourism.

Stargazing is one of the many ways people connect to nature, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic motivated people to spend more time outdoors.

Mueller says the lodge’s park has that “national park era” feel, like Acadia or Yellowstone.

The parks are working on creating light only to foster dark skies, he added.

Light pollution is a major health concern, but the International Dark-Sky Association says dark skies benefit human health by improving circadian rhythm and connections to nature.

CEO and Executive Director of IDA Ruskin Hartley said, “Unlike many other environmental issues facing the world, solving light pollution is straightforward, saves money, and delivers immediate results.”

Many parks globally have reduced their light pollution and implemented dark sky programs.

The association recognizes about 200 parks around the world.

There are six night-sky protected state parks in Michigan, according to the state Department of Natural Resources: Negwegon, Wilderness, Thompson’s Harbor, Rockport and Port Crescent, state parks, plus the Lake Hudson Recreation Area. ;

Elsewhere in the Great Lakes region are Newport State Park in Wisconsin, Starry Skies Lake Superior and Aurora Summit in Minnesota, Geauga Observatory Park in Ohio, and Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania.

Nighttime entry fees, if any, are minimal.

The Keweenaw Dark Sky Park has 24/7, 365-day access, with no check-in required. Stargazing is free, but lodging, workshops, food and beverages are not.

The Dr T.K. Lawless International Dark Park charges $3 per car for stargazing. has a search engine to find dark sky events or search for dark sky parks worldwide.




Recommended For You

About the Author: NewsGuy