What to know if you’re traveling in Michigan this Fourth of July weekend

Tips to plan ahead, keep safe amid holiday weekend travel


Happy Fourth of July weekend!

We’ll be returning to some muggy weather on July 4, but the weekend still looks warm, sunny and mostly dry -- meaning a lot of people will be heading outdoors to celebrate.

Now that COVID restrictions have been lifted in the state, AAA estimates that more than 1.5 million Michigan residents are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the July Fourth weekend. And many of those destinations will likely include Michigan’s state parks and historic sites.

More: MDOT lifting lane restrictions to ease Michigan holiday weekend travel

If you’re planning to enjoy Michigan’s beautiful outdoor offerings this weekend, the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is sharing some tips to help you plan ahead and celebrate safely.

Some state, park locations still closed

While many state parks and buildings have reopened amid the pandemic, the Michigan DNR says the following locations are still closed this weekend:

Officials also say to be aware that some parking lots at state park and recreation locations could “temporarily close due to capacity limits.”

For those heading to the water

The Michigan DNR is encouraging anyone heading to a beach or lake this weekend to be aware of dangerous waters.

Officials say rip and structural currents, high waves and other dangerous conditions can occur on the Great Lakes -- where there are no lifeguards present.

Most state parks offer designated swimming areas and flags to notify beachgoers of current water levels.

Michigan's state parks utilize this beach flag warning system to let park visitors know if it is safe to enter the water. Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resource's website. (Michigan DNR)

You can also check beach forecasts and swim risks for Michigan’s Great Lakes online right here. As of Friday, July 2, swim risks are high along southern Lake Huron and the southwestern coast of Lake Michigan.

Learn more about beach safety tips and water currents on the Michigan DNR website here.

Boaters are also reminded to take precautions when entering and exiting lakes, rivers and streams to prevent spreading invasive species from one region to another. Nonnative species, like plants, fish and mollusks, can cause serious harm to natural ecosystems if introduced.

By law, Michigan boaters are required to remove “plants and debris from boats and trailers, remove plugs, and drain bilge tanks and live wells before heading out on the road,” officials said.

Related: 5 invasive plants to watch out for in Michigan

Michigan boaters are encouraged to use “caution and common sense,” as it is illegal to operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Fireworks laws, safety tips

Relevant as they are to the holiday, fireworks are banned at Michigan state parks and campgrounds.

It’s also important to know fireworks laws for whatever region you are visiting for the July Fourth weekend: Michigan’s Fireworks Safety Act of 2011 was amended in December 2018 to give local government entities -- villages, townships, and cities -- the right to restrict days and times their residents can use fireworks.

Learn more: Michigan fireworks laws: What’s legal, when you can set them off, safety tips

If you do set off fireworks, the Michigan DNR says it is important to take steps to prevent wildfires, as much of the state -- especially northern Michigan -- is still technically experiencing a drought.

When using fireworks, officials say to:

  • Keep a water source ready to spray embers from fireworks. Spray the entire area you plan to use fireworks with water before starting and when finished.
  • Toss used fireworks and sparklers into a bucket of water.
  • Consider spark-free alternatives such as ribbon dancers, biodegradable confetti poppers, glow-in-the dark bubbles and glow sticks.

Protect yourself from ticks

Over the last several summers, ticks have become a more widespread issue in Michigan.

In southeast Michigan, many parents have already reported finding ticks on their children in recent weeks. Most had been playing in their own backyards or in parks -- not necessarily just in heavily wooded areas.

Ticks are prevalent all across the state of Michigan.

Ticks can spread several illnesses, but Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in Michigan. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted by the blacklegged/deer tick.

To protect yourself from ticks, experts say to take the following steps:

  • Avoid tick-infested areas
    • Walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush and leaf litter at trail edges.
    • Protect your pets too! Dogs and cats can come into contact with ticks outdoors and bring them into the home, so using tick prevention products on pets is also recommended.
  • Use insect repellent
    • Apply repellent containing DEET (20-30 percent) or Picaridin on exposed skin.
    • Treat clothes (especially pants, socks and shoes) with permethrin, which kills ticks on contact or buy clothes that are pre-treated. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
    • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying repellents.
  • Perform daily tick checks
    • Always check for ticks on yourself and your animals after being outdoors, even in your own yard.
    • Inspect all body surfaces carefully, and remove attached ticks with tweezers.
    • To remove a tick, grasp the tick firmly and as closely to the skin as possible. With a steady motion, pull the tick’s body away from the skin. Cleanse the area with an antiseptic.
  • Bathe or shower
    • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
    • Washing clothing in hot water and drying on high heat will kill ticks in clothing.
    • Michigan citizens can submit ticks to MDHHS for identification and possible Lyme disease testing, free of charge.

More: Reminder: Ticks, mosquitoes abundant this summer in Michigan

Michigan residents and visitors who are not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are still encouraged to wear face masks when in crowded settings.

Click here for more tips and guides for Michigan state parks on the DNR’s website.

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.