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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

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Title: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Glen Haven, Michigan, North Manitou Island Lifesaving Station, Platte River Campground Site, Sleeping Bear Point Life Saving Station, National Register of Historic Places listings in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Collection: Beaches of Michigan, Dunes of Michigan, Important Bird Areas of Michigan, Landforms of Benzie County, Michigan, Landforms of Leelanau County, Michigan, Landmarks in Michigan, Protected Areas Established in 1970, Protected Areas of Benzie County, Michigan, Protected Areas of Leelanau County, Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Tourism in Michigan
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Aerial view of Sleeping Bear Dunes
Map showing the location of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Map showing the location of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Location Leelanau & Benzie counties, Michigan, US
Nearest city Empire, Michigan
Area 71,187 acres (288.08 km2)
Established October 21, 1970 (1970-10-21)
Visitors 1,280,932 (in 2010[1])
Governing body National Park Service

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a United States National Lakeshore located along the northwest coast of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan in Leelanau and Benzie counties near Empire, Michigan. The park covers a 35-mile-long (56 km) stretch of Lake Michigan's eastern coastline, as well as North and South Manitou islands. This Northern Michigan park was established primarily because of its outstanding natural features, including forests, beaches, dune formations, and ancient glacial phenomena. The lakeshore also contains many cultural features including the 1871 South Manitou Island Lighthouse, three former stations of the Coast Guard (formerly the Life-Saving Service) and an extensive rural historic farm district. In 2011, the area won the title of "The Most Beautiful Place in America" from Good Morning America.[2] In 2014, a section of the park was named the Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness by the United States Congress.


  • History 1
  • Historic sites 2
    • Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station Maritime Museum 2.1
    • Glen Haven Village 2.2
    • Port Oneida Historic Farm District 2.3
  • Climate 3
  • Flora and fauna 4
  • Camping 5
    • D.H. Day Campground 5.1
    • Platte River Campground 5.2
    • Manitou Island campgrounds 5.3
    • Other camping areas nearby 5.4
  • See also 6
  • Footnotes 7
  • External links 8


The park was authorized on October 21, 1970. The park's creation was highly controversial because it involved the transfer of private property to public. The federal government's stance at the time was that the Great Lakes were the "third coast" and had to be preserved much like Cape Hatteras or Big Sur, which are National Seashores. The residents living in what is now Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore believed they were stewards of the land and did not want it to be overrun by tourists. The government eventually won out in part by supporting the local schools to offset the lost property tax revenue and by adding North Manitou Island to be included in the park.[3]

View from Lake Michigan Overlook, with people climbing up the dunes

The park is named after a Chippewa legend of the sleeping bear. According to the legend, an enormous forest fire on the western shore of Lake Michigan drove a mother bear and her two cubs into the lake for shelter, determined to reach the opposite shore. After many miles of swimming, the two cubs lagged behind. When the mother bear reached the shore, she waited on the top of a high bluff. The exhausted cubs drowned in the lake, but the mother bear stayed and waited in hopes that her cubs would finally appear. Impressed by the mother bear's determination and faith, the Great Spirit created two islands (North and South Manitou islands) to commemorate the cubs, and the winds buried the sleeping bear under the sands of the dunes where she waits to this day. The "bear" was a small tree-covered knoll at the top edge of the bluff that, from the water, had the appearance of a sleeping bear. Wind and erosion have caused the "bear" to be greatly reduced in size over the years.

In 2014, 32,500 acres (13,200 ha; 50.8 sq mi) of the park were formally designated as the Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness by the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act. This was the first wilderness protection bill to be passed by the United States Congress in five years.[4][5]

Historic sites

Looking south from Sleeping Bear Dunes toward Empire Bluffs and the southern portion of the National Lakeshore in Benzie County

Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station Maritime Museum

Glen Haven Village

Glen Haven existed as a company town from 1865 to 1931. Originally, a dock for Glen Arbor (1855-date), the site soon became a fuel supply point for ships traveling up and down the lake. Here Charles McCarty decided to open his own business and built a dock to supply the ships with wood. In 1863, McCarty built the Sleeping Bear House. It was expanded a few years later to accommodate travelers. In 1928, it was remodeled into the inn for summer vacationers. The General Store was established to supply the workers. Like most company towns, the workers were paid in company coupons, redeemable only at the company store. The Blacksmith Shop is where tools were repaired. In 1878, David Henry Day arrived in the community. By this time, coal from the Appalachian coal fields was replacing wood on the steamships. Day was looking for another future to this small community.[6]

Historic D.H. Day Farm

Port Oneida Historic Farm District

In 1860, Port Oneida had a population of 87 people. Thomas Kelderhouse had built a dock to sell wood to the passing steamships. He was also able to sell fresh produce and maple sugar in season. A local story says that the name comes from the first ship to stop, the SS Oneida of New York State. The area covers 3,000 acres (12 km2) and includes 16 historic farms. The farming community was gradually abandoned due to hard farming conditions and declining timber sales. [7]


Climate data for Traverse City, Michigan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F 29 29 37 54 64 75 81 78 71 60 44 33 55
Average low °F 15 11 21 32 41 52 59 58 51 41 31 21 36
Average rainfall inches 1.9 1.5 1.8 2.3 2.8 2.5 2.8 2.7 3 2.8 2.7 1.8 28.6
Average snowfall inches 19.9 16.2 12.1 3 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 8.8 16.5 77.5
Average high °C −2 −2 3 12 18 24 27 26 22 16 7 1 13
Average low °C −9 −12 −6 0 5 11 15 14 11 5 −1 −6 2
Average rainfall mm 48 38 46 58 71 64 71 69 80 71 69 46 726
Average snowfall cm 50.5 41.1 30.7 8 0.8 0 0 0 0 1.8 22.4 41.9 196.9
Source: [8]
The lakeshore during winter

Flora and fauna

Cougars sightings have been reported in the lakeshore, and the National Park Service advises respect and caution, as well as as notification to rangers if one is encountered.[9]


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of Michigan's most popular destinations for camping vacations, possibly the most popular.[10] This popularity may be due to the fact it was named the "Most Beautiful Place in America" by Good Morning America in 2012.[2] There are a few campgrounds in the national lakeshore and they are grouped into D.H. Day Campground, Platte River Campground, a few camping areas on the Manitou Islands within, and some other sites for backcountry or group camping.

D.H. Day Campground

D.H. Day Campground is part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and offers a moderate level of privacy and a beach on Lake Michigan. Campsites are rustic, wooded, and more far apart than campsites at most campgrounds. Nearby points of interest include Empire Bluffs, the "dune climb", and North Bar Lake. It is extremely popular and does not accept reservations; all sites are "first-come, first-served." Because of the campground's popularity it's recommended that campers arrive early to obtain a first-come, first-served campsite during summer months. Campsites 1-31 allow the use of a generator, the remaining sites forbid generator use.[11]

Platte River Campground

Platte River Campground is part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and offers a variety of campsites, some of which are reservable and some of which are set aside as first-come first-served. Some campsites are modern (with electrical hookups), some are "hike-in," and others are more rustic. Nearby points of interest include Platte River Point, the Platte River, and Big Platte Lake. The north section of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is a short drive from Platte River Campground. Kayaking is a popular activity at the campground, especially the kayak trail leading from the campground to Platte River Point[12]

Manitou Island campgrounds

Sleeping Bear Dunes also has three main campgrounds on South Manitou Island, including the Weather Station Campground located on the south side of the island,[13] the Bay Campground on the west shore of the island[14] and the Popple Campground on the north shore.[15]

Other camping areas nearby

In addition to federal campgrounds within the national lakeshore itself, there are many other camping areas nearby, which cater to the large number of tourists visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes each year. There are at least 20 distinct camping areas in the region immediately surrounding Sleeping Bear Dunes.[16]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ 5 Most Popular Camping Spots in Michigan (based on Google Traffic) Campthat
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^

External links

  • National Park Service: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: Final General Management Plan, Wilderness Study Environmental Impact Statement
  • Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • North Manitou Island
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau
  • The Sleeping Bear Organization
  • Aerial Video of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

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