ONTONAGON, Mich. (WWJ) – Michigan’s largest state park is becoming a little too popular.

The Department of Natural Resources says more than 300,000 people a year are visiting Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park, which covers 60,000 acres of old-growth hemlock-hardwood stands, roaring waterfalls and spectacular sweeping vistas in the western Upper Peninsula.

In past years, backcountry campsites were available on a first-come, first-served basis. Park rangers didn’t need to limit camping and campers could camp off-trail in a dispersed fashion away from designated campsites.

But as the park becomes more popular, officials are worried that the solitude of the wilderness experience has been compromised. To prevent overcrowding, the DNR will now use its state-wide reservation system for camping at the park.

“We are now requiring campers to stay at designated campsites and we are limiting the number of registered campsites to 63 per night to protect the backcountry experience for all,” Michael Knack, park supervisor, said in a statement. “Campers can now make a reservation for campsites and all backcountry campers will be required to camp on the specific backcountry campsite or campsites they have registered for.”

Campsites cost $15 per night, have a metal fire ring and can accommodate up to six people.

“Reservations are strongly encouraged given popularity of the park’s backcountry and the number of available campsites,” said Bob Wild, a park interpreter at the state park. “We will most likely fill-up several nights this season.”

Backcountry camping reservations are available six months in advance for May 15 through Oct. 15 at midnrreservations.com or by calling 1-800-44PARKS. The remainder of the year is local sale only at the park. Self-registration at the park is no longer offered.

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