By Theresa Ekdom
ST. HELEN–There are many small towns in northern Michigan where you can say ‘Don’t blink or you will miss it!’ when you travel through. Some people may say the same about St. Helen, but all you have to do is get off the main road through town to see the rich outdoors heritage of the town.
The main crossroads in town has a stoplight. Head one way on Airport Road and you will find the lake; head the other way to find the airport, park, and ORV trailhead leading to miles of marked trails.
For those looking for something more active to do, take a ride off the main roads. St Helen is the unofficial off road vehicle capital of Michigan for good reason. There is a trailhead (parking lot) on State land across from the Richfield Township Park.
This is the gateway to hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile and ORV trails. In 2010 the rock crawl area was created in the St. Helen Motorsport area. This two square mile scramble area is a perfect place to take the 4-wheel drive pick-ups as well as the smaller ATVs and kick up a little dust.
For those looking for quiet and relaxation, head to the lake.
Lake St. Helen is actually three lakes connected to make a larger one. At the public access site there are boat launches along with a handicap accessible fishing pier and kayak launch. Next to the pier is the “Cove” with boat docks. Both spots have beaches at them.
“The lakes are so relaxing,” Chamber of Commerce President Bev Van Meter said. “So much of the lake is wild. You can see deer and different birds.”
With 15 of the 18 miles of shoreline on the lake undeveloped, there are plenty chances to see the wildlife, including eagles, in the area. And the fishing is great too! You can find walleye, bass, pike and a number of panfish in the lake. The abundance of bluegill is what gave the town’s festival its name.
The Bluegill Festival began in 1949 and continues today, making it Roscommon County’s longest running festival. It is each July and has activities for the whole family. There are carnival games, a parade, and of course, a fishing contest. The festival is scheduled for July 14-17,
Township and county ordinances allow the all terrain vehicles to be driven on the sides of the roads making it convenient to stay at the campgrounds in the area. After riding the trails, drive into town to fill up gas tanks and stomachs.
There are three gas stations and many small, local restaurants in town. Stop in at No Limits Pizza, Cedar Inn, Firehouse, Peach Pit, or the Hen House. There’s good food at all of them.
While in town, stop at the Veterans Memorial, a small park designed to rest and remember the people who have served in the service. Or head to the Richfield Township Park with the kids. There are ball fields, horse shoe pits, and a large play area for the kids.
Just a few minutes from town is Birch Point, a nine-hole golf course. And if you want to see a show, head north to Kirtland Community College.
So, next time you drive through a small town, don’t blink, but take a closer look at what they may offer just off the main road.