Bay City State Park
Bangor Charter Township, MI
Home to some of the warmest water in the Great Lakes, Bay City State Park is located on the southern shore of Saginaw Bay (the body of water that gives Michigan its thumb). The warmer water temperature, makes it a great beach to go to early in the season. I went in mid-June and the water was about 68 degrees according to NOAA. The water was very comfortable on a very hot day. Bay City State Park has over 1,000 feet of lake frontage, in a natural environment. The beach is a unique beach because it is mostly surrounded by some of the largest freshwater marshes in the Great Lakes. Take a walk on the boardwalk over the marsh and through the woods to the white sandy beach of Bay City State Park.
Thumb Michigan. Mid-Michigan. Saginaw Bay/ Lake Huron.
Saginaw: 21 miles (23 minutes)
Flint: 56 miles (49 minutes)
Ann Arbor: 104 miles (1 hour 30 minutes)
Lansing: 106 miles (1 hour 30 minutes)
Detroit: 120 miles (1 hour 44 minutes)
The water here is warmer than most of the Great Lakes because Saginaw Bay is shallow and protected from the deep, cold water of the rest of Lake Huron. The water is much warmer than Port Huron was 3 weeks earlier and is easy to get used to. The top of the water is clear but the bottom is very murky and has a brown tint to it. From water’s edge, the slope is very gentle, allowing for most people to go 50 feet out and still touch the bottom. This beach has a nice sandy bottom with very few weeds. This makes it very popular with boaters also, many dropped anchor near shore. I only have two complaints with the water: one, the water was full of cottonwood and other tree debris. This might be a timing thing with the cottonwood trees. Second, the water at this beach has a very musky smell to it and you smell like it when you get out. Overall, however, it is a very pleasant swimming experience.
Bay City State Park is a large natural beach with over 1,000 feet of frontage on Lake Huron. The beach is also relatively wide, even with the high-water levels throughout the Great Lakes. It ranges from 15 to 30 yards at various spots. The beach is a bit of a walk from the parking lot, about a 5-minute walk over a marsh and through the woods. The white sand at Bay City State Park is beautiful, gentle and not too hot on your bare feet. No need for lake shoes with this wonderful sand.
Bay City State Park is a great place to take in views of the wooded coastline. There are few buildings near the beach and the area is heavily wooded. Located on the southern shore of the Saginaw Bay, the beach gives you a good view of the “U”-shape of the bay. To the north, you see the endless horizon of Lake Huron. The one blemish on the views of this beach is the coal-fired-electric-generating-plant near the beach. But good news, the plant is scheduled to be retired in 2023 and hopefully it will be demolished shortly after that.
The bathrooms here were basic facilities, cement block building, typical of a state park. On the day I went, they were clean. Unfortunately, the bathrooms are close to the parking lot, not the beach. There are no showers or foot-wash-stations. There was also one port-a-potty a little bit closer to the beach. Bathrooms are something that could be improved.
Parking/ Cost: Another State Park, another beach worth the $11 a year recreation passport. Why haven’t you gotten the recreation passport? There were plenty of parking spots on the Friday I visited and I bet there will still be plenty on a Saturday or Sunday.
Beach size: 5/5
Swimming conditions: 4/5
Travel rating: Bay City State Park is a great day trip beach for those living within 2 hours of the beach, especially early in the season.