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Water parks making a splash in Michigan State Parks


Water parks came to Michigan state parks in 2016, when Jump Island opened at Holly Recreation Area in Oakland County.

Other water park vendors soon followed which helps draw more visitors to the state parks.

“WhoaZone and Jump Island before it have been wildly popular at Holly and have increased beach visitation dramatically,” said Shawn Speaker, unit supervisor at Holly Recreation Area and part of the innovation team that initially brought the water parks to state parks.

Inflatable water parks, also called aqua parks, add another dimension of family fun at five state parks across Michigan. These floating playgrounds feature a series of connected inflatable slides, runways, jumping pillows and bouncers that are suitable for both kids and adults.

“We’re always looking for new ways to remain relevant to the public and provide even more reasons to visit state parks,” said Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson.

This summer, there are five water parks located at state parks in southeastern Michigan, the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula.

New for 2019 at Brighton is Splash Island, a smaller version of the floating structures in shallower water for smaller children 44-48 inches tall. Most of the water parks, including Jump Island, have a height requirement of at least 48 inches. Jump Nation, the company that operates the water park, also will offer swimming lessons and yoga classes.

“Passport sales in 2017 jumped up roughly $46,000 over the previous year without a water park,” said Kale Leftwich, unit supervisor at Brighton Recreation Area in Livingston County.

Another Jump Island location on Budd Lake at Wilson State Park in Clare County offers a water course with an inflatable iceberg, inflatable slides, runways and more, where visitors can balance, walk, run or slide right on the water.

Located in the Upper Peninsula on Lake Michigamme in Marquette County’s Van Riper State Park, Water Warrior Island includes 20-foot water slides, rock climbing walls, trampolines, floating walkways and a ninja-warrior-like obstacle course.

Water Warrior Island also operates at Oakland County’s Bald Mountain Recreation Area, with a course that challenges visitors to defeat a 20-foot wall, conquer a 25-foot slide, and swing and blast themselves into the air while testing their strength and ability to climb, jump, balance and grip.

“This is our first year with Water Warrior Island. We have had a lot of folks calling about it and coming in to look at it, but the weather has not been very nice to get out in the water yet,” Adam Lepp, Bald Mountain unit supervisor, said. “The customers that have used it really liked it and want to do it again!”

WhoaZone at Holly Recreation Area’s Heron Beach features a course offering four different routes with varying degrees of difficulty, with a gigantic springboard, semi-circle step, wiggle bridge, half-pipe and more that visitors can climb, jump, crawl and slide on. A special water play area is available for kids at least 4 years old and 39 inches tall.

“Most people love the water parks, even if they aren’t using them,” Speaker said. “Lots of people have shared with me they enjoy watching the people out there having fun and think it’s a great addition to the beach.”

The aqua park endeavor has been a win-win for both the vendors running the facilities and the state parks hosting them.

Jump in on the fun and make a splash this summer with plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities at Michigan’s 103 state parks.

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