If you're thinking of spending a day at the beach this summer, you're probably envisioning a trip to the ocean. But consider this, with 64 miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore may be perfect for your "beach" vacation. Indeed some Michiganders think it's like the ocean, only better because swimmers don't have to contend with sharks and jellyfish!
In addition to white sandy beaches, Sleeping Bear Dunes also features magnificent sand dunes that reach up to 400 feet above the lake--the world's largest collection of fresh water sand dunes. Lake Michigan and its shoreline were carved out by the advance and retreat of huge glaciers over the last two million years. In northwestern Michigan, where the park in located, the ice retreated as recently as 12,000 years ago, leaving behind a lake full of melted ice and edged with limestone deposits that form the base for the sand dunes on top. In parts of the parks, visitors can climb the dunes. Children particularly enjoy rolling back down the dunes after the long climb up!
American Indians were the first people to tell the story of the dunes and the islands just offshore. The Ojibwe Indians told the story of the mother bear and her two cubs swimming across Lake Michigan to flee a forest fire. The cubs couldn't stay above water, and drowned. The Great Spirit turned the cubs into the Manitou Islands and their mother waits for them forever, in the form a giant sand dune along the shore looking out over the water. It is a powerful story of creation and loyalty. It reminds us too that spending time out of doors with our friends and family this summer is a great way to strengthen the bonds between us and forge memories that will last a lifetime.
If You Go
The park offers an outstanding combination of natural and cultural resources including historic sites, such as lighthouses, the barns, farms, and orchards of Historical Port Oneida Rural District, and a maritime museum, camping, swimming, guided hikes, bird watching, and more.
Keeping Invasive Species Out of Park Waters
While the shores of Lake Michigan offer the quintessential beach experience with beautiful water and white sandy beaches, the lake is also a vital natural ecosystem, home to 78 different species of fish. This habitat is under threat from invasive species, such as the Asian Carp, which can grow to 100 pounds. Its voracious appetite devastates habitat that native fish need to survive.
As a co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition NPCA helped secure $400,000 that will keep Asian Carp from threatening Great Lakes parks like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Isle Royale National Park. The funding, secured in June 2006, allows the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to operate an electronic barrier designed to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
Visit the Healing Our Waters Coalition, co-chaired by NPCA.