DescriptionSleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore lies along 35 miles of the Lower Peninsula's northwestern shore and includes the Manitou Islands. The name is derived from an Ojibway Indian legend that tells of a bear and her two cubs forced to swim across Lake Michigan to escape a forest fire. The mother reached the shore safely and climbed to the top of a dune to await the cubs that lagged behind and never arrived. She still maintains her vigil in the form of a dark hill of sand atop a plateau, while the errant cubs have become the North and South Manitou islands.
The dunes are the product of several glacial assaults that ended approximately 11,000 years ago. The glaciers left a legacy of rock, sand and silt as they melted. Rugged bluffs rise as high as 450 feet above the lake. Among the dunes are ghost forests, the bleached remains of trees that were once covered by advancing dunes, then exposed as the sand moved on. The 7.4-mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, open spring through fall (9 a.m.-30 minutes after dusk), provides access to the high dunes of Sleeping Bear Plateau and affords views from the bluffs overlooking the lake. The Dune Climb on SR 109 is open daily 24 hours. For the most up-to-date information, phone (231) 326-5135.
Fishing and canoeing are popular on the Platte and Crystal rivers and adjoining lakes, as are hiking and cross-country skiing on the park's 55 miles of marked trails. On South Manitou Island is a lighthouse, the wreck of the Liberian freighter Francisco Morazan and the Valley of Giants—a virgin white-cedar forest. North Manitou Island, 15,000 acres of wilderness, attracts backpackers. The islands are accessible by passenger ferry from Leland .
Several attractions are in Glen Haven. The Cannery Boathouse Museum has boats as well as equipment and motors; the site is open daily 11-5, Memorial Day-Labor Day; phone for schedule after Labor Day through October. A restored 1920s blacksmith shop offers demonstrations, which are usually given daily 11-5 Memorial Day-Labor Day and then weekends only through early October if staff is available. Glen Haven General Store/DH Day Museum on SR 209 is also reminiscent of the 1920s. The Maritime Museum at the Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station, 1 mile west of Glen Haven, has displays depicting the maritime history of the area, including Great Lakes shipping, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Life-Saving Service. It is open daily 11-5 Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend and then on weekends noon-4 until early October, when staff is available.
The Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, on SR 72 in Empire, has exhibits about the region's natural history and a slide program about the park. It is open daily except for Jan. 1, Thanksgiving and Christmas (8-6, Memorial Day-Columbus Day and 8:30-4 the rest of the year).
Other recreational opportunities include camping, horseback riding, ice fishing, kayaking, snowshoeing and swimming. Picnic facilities are available at various places throughout the park, and there are several beaches.
A pass, valid for 7 days, is $15 per private vehicle; $7 (per person arriving by other means); free (ages 0-15). For further information contact the Superintendent, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, 9922 Front St., Empire, MI 49630; phone (231) 326-5135 or (231) 326-4700.
GEM DescriptionDunes, water and wilderness areas provide plenty of sightseeing and recreational opportunities.