Sterling State Park

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William C. Sterling State Park
Pedestrian bridge over lagoon
Pedestrian bridge over lagoon
Map showing the location of William C. Sterling State Park
Map showing the location of William C. Sterling State Park
Location in Michigan
LocationFrenchtown Charter Township
Monroe County, Michigan
Nearest cityMonroe, Michigan
Coordinates41°54′56″N 83°20′01″W / 41.91556°N 83.33361°W / 41.91556; -83.33361Coordinates: 41°54′56″N 83°20′01″W / 41.91556°N 83.33361°W / 41.91556; -83.33361[2]
Area1,300 acres (530 ha)
Elevation591 feet (180 m) [2]
DesignationMichigan state park
AdministratorMichigan Department of Natural Resources
WebsiteSterling State Park
Picnic area adjacent to Lake Erie

William C. Sterling State Park is a public recreation area located in Frenchtown Charter Township with a small portion lying within the city limits of Monroe, Michigan. It is the only Michigan state park located on Lake Erie. The park encompasses 1,300 acres (530 ha) of mostly man-made lagoons and beachfront near the mouth of Sandy Creek. The main attractions at the park include a 256-site campground, beach area, boat launch, and shore fishing lagoons. There are over seven miles (11 km) of biking and hiking trails within the park.[4]


The park is named for William Clark Sterling (1849–1924),[5] a businessman and outdoorsman who bought marshland at the mouth of the Detroit River and was one of the first to see the value in protecting swamps for future generations and the good of the environment.[6] The state acquired the park's first 134 acres—a narrow strip lying between Lake Erie and a lagoon—in 1935. A portion of the land had been donated by the city of Monroe and the Monroe Piers Land Company, which had once been owned by Sterling. The park was dedicated the following year.[7]

For quite some time, Sterling State Park was greatly polluted by river runoff from Detroit, and swimming in the water was not recommended and even illegal. In an effort to preserve the Lake Erie coastline after decades of pollutants from the Detroit River emptied into the region—killing off tremendous amounts of wildlife and leaving the lake largely uninhabitable—millions of dollars were spent and the region was cleaned up and partially restored.[8]

In the late 1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency declared the area to be an environmental concern due to the level of pollutants in Lake Erie and the River Raisin. When studying fish in the area, PCB levels increased 87% from the 1988 to 1998. The result of the overpollution came from the sudden industrial growth surrounding the River Raisin delta and Lake Erie.[9] The largest of these industries include a Ford plant and the coal-burning Monroe Power Plant, both of which caused severe impacts on the ecosystem of the area. In September 1997, the Ford completed an environmental dredging project in the River Raisin and removed approximately 25,000 cubic yards (19,000 m³) of toxic PCB-contaminated sediment from the River Raisin.

In 2001, William C. Sterling State Park was included as the southern border of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.[10] This allowed the park to receive federal funding for a $12 million renovation project. The park was closed during the 2003 season while the renovation was carried out to the park, which was remodeled to include miles of wetland walking paths open to the public in an area that had been closed since the early 1900s. Today, the park boasts many lagoons and marshes, providing good habitat for a variety of wildlife and bird life that have returned to the area. During the time of renovation, there was a threat of E. coli bacteria in the lake waters, which resulted in several deaths in neighboring Ontario. William C. Sterling State Park was not tested since the park was closed at the time. Swimming in Lake Erie is constantly monitored to make sure that the level of toxins are low enough not to pose a threat to human safety. The once severely polluted lake has undergone much restoration in the past decade, which has greatly benefited William C. Sterling State Park.

Activities and amenities[edit]

Today, William C. Sterling State Park includes 256 modernized camp sites (open only from April 15 – November 1), picnic areas and shelters, biking and hiking trails, a recreational metal detecting area, beach access, and playgrounds. Snowmobiling is permitted in the park only when there is in excess of four inches of snow. The park is also bordered by a pristine 36-hole golf course. Every year for Independence Day, Monroe holds a fireworks show on Lake Erie, within clear view of the park, to which thousands of people drive to view the show, causing severe traffic congestion. Many boats also moor on the lake, where the fireworks are best seen.


  1. ^ "Sterling State Park". IUCN. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Sterling State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
  3. ^ "When were Michigan state parks and recreation areas established?" (PDF). Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  4. ^ "Sterling State Park". Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  5. ^ "Monroe's Historic Woodland Cemetery Tour" (PDF). Genealogical Society of Monroe County. Retrieved July 13, 2018. William C. Sterling (1849–1924) Owner of the Sterling Cedar & Lumber Company and commodore of the Monroe Yacht Club. Family donated part of the land that became William C. Sterling State Park in his honor.
  6. ^ Warnes, Kathy (February 17, 2017). "William Clark Sterling, Sr., and Sterling State Park". Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  7. ^ Bayless, Brittany N. "The Show Windows of a State". Bowling Green State University. pp. 23–24. Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  8. ^ Swan, James (July 17, 2007). "The Detroit River's amazing comeback". ESPN. Retrieved June 16, 2009.
  9. ^ Dodge, Kenneth (1998). "River Raisin Assessment" (PDF). Retrieved June 17, 2009.
  10. ^ "Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge". U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved July 13, 2018.

External links[edit]