Nestled along the beaches of Lake Michigan, about a half hour's drive west of Traverse City, Michigan is one of the most glorious scenic displays on the North American continent, the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. It is an area that stretches from Platte River (on the south end) to Glen Arbor (on the north end). Forests come down to white sandy beaches for miles.
|Most people know the story told by the Native Americans of the Great She-Bear and her cubs who tried to make the swim from Wisconsin. As they neared the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, the cubs became overly tired and drowned. The Great She-Bear, saddened at the loss of her cubs, made it to the shore, turned to mourn her cubs. The Great Spirit Manitou had mercy upon the Great She-Bear and put her into a deep sleep. Her drowned cubs became the two Manitou Islands (just to the west of the Bear). The Great She-Bear became the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes that we know, today.|
many years this area was left to the devices of those who could make a fast buck from
those who wanted to visit the area. Dune rides left dirty trails on the back of the great
bear. People wanted to build their homes along the shore. Soon, the pristine beauty of the
area was being endangered. It was in the late 1960's that Senator Philip Hart from
Michigan proposed legislation to make the area into a National Lake Shore. Now, the area
is protected. There are no cottages along this stretch of beach. The beauty of this area
may well be preserved for many years to come.
People now come from all over the world to view and hike along this natural wonder. The picture to the right, displays one of the most favorite attractions of the dunes: The Dune Climb, located just south of Glen Haven.
During the early days of the Cold War the United States Government built a defensive radar shield across North America. One of these radar installations is seen in this picture (taken in May, 1996, just south of Empire). Now, with better relations with the Russians the U.S. government is slowly dismantleing the radar stations. When we visited Empire in July, 1996 only one of these huge radar domes remained.
We can tell you this, however: people who visit this area love to walk the beaches and swim in the clear, blue water.
Camping is available in the National Lakeshore campgrounds -- One of them is at Platte River and the other one is at Glen Haven.
One of the best ways to see this area is to take off your shoes and walk along the beach. You can walk for miles without leaving sand. One of the nicest walks is from Empire to the south, around the bluffs, towards Esch Road, a hike of several miles. In the summer you may even be surprised to find a few nude sun worshipers lying out on the beach, on the southern side of the bluffs, although they will be discreet for the most part! Or, if they see you coming they may take a quick hike up the beach.
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