May 16, 2013
Walk silently through the haunting landscape of the ghost forest of Sleeping Bear Point Trail
and wind spirits whisper to you and chatter among the skeletons of long dead cedars.
If you do not hear them you are not listening.
I am sure the Anishinaabek knew the song in their day on Sleeping Bear.
~Jonathan Schechter, Earth’s Almanac
Jonathan Schechter who runs the very cool blog Earth’s Almanac at the Oakland Press penned these lines about the Ghost Forest on the Sleeping Bear Dunes (thanks SleepingBearDunes.com for the link). Click through for a photographic account of his visit!
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore page on the Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook explains how the ghost forest was created:
The Sleeping Bear Dune is estimated to be about two thousand years old and has a fascinating history. It is classified as a perched dune because it is perched on top of a plateau, high above the lake. When the dune was forming, it was not at the edge of the bluff, but somewhat inland.Wind carried sand from the upper portion of the Lake Michigan bluff inland and deposited it to form the Sleeping Bear Dune.
Notice the skeletons of dead trees within the eroded bowl of the dune. This called a ghost forest and tells a story of alternating stability and change. After an initial phase of active sand accumulation, a period of stability followed when trees began to grow on the dune. Later, more sand moved in and buried the trees. Two layers of buried soil within the dune indicate that there was a second period of stability and tree growth, followed by another period of sand build-up and then the final growth of the trees and shrubs that now cover the sheltered portions of the dunes.
For a long time, the sleeping Bear Dune stood at about 234 feet high with a dense plant cover. However, trough most of the twentieth century, erosion has prevailed.
By 1961, the dune was only 132 feet high, and by 1980, it was down to 103 feet. The process is a continuing one. The major cause of the dune’s erosion was wave action wearing away the base of the plateau on which the dune rests. As the west side of the dune loses its support, it cascades down the hill. The wind, too, is a major agent of erosion, removing sand and destroying the dune’s plant cover. What does the future hold? It seems that the present trend will continue and it is only a matter of time until the Bear disappears completely.
More dunes on Michigan in Pictures.
March 27, 2013
EDIT: Wow I really messed this one up, sleepily citing an article that gave the dune’s age in the millions of years. Thanks to Tom Burrows for the catch. Let’s see if this information on coastal dunes from the DNR makes more sense:
Michigan’s glacial history provides an explanation for the formation of dunes. The Great Lakes dune complex is relatively young, in terms of geological time. As recently as 16,000 years ago, Michigan was covered with glacial ice thousands of feet thick. This glacial ice contained a mix of boulders, cobbles, sand, and clay. During glacial melting, this deposit was left and is known as glacial drift.
This glacial drift is the source of sand in most of Michigan’s dunes. The sands were either eroded from glacial drift along the coast by wave activity or eroded from inland deposits and carried by rivers and streams. Only the hardest, smallest, and least soluble sand grains were moved. Waves and currents eventually moved these tiny rocks inland, creating beaches along the Great Lakes shoreline.
…Blowouts are saddle shaped or U shaped (parabolic) depressions in a stabilized sand dune, caused by the local destabilization of the dune sands. Blowouts, which originate on the summit or windward face of a dune, are often rapidly formed by the wind, creating narrow channels and exposing plant roots. Blowouts can create interruptions in the shape of parallel dunes that may result in deeply carved indentions called parabolic dunes. It is the combination of interwoven parallel dune ridges and U shaped depressions, including parabolic dunes, that characterizes the classic dunes from Indiana, northward to Ludington, in Michigan.
Awesome Michigan wrote a little about The Bowl at Holland saying:
The Bowl is an gigantic sand bowl, resembling a sort of concave desert.
Along with the other dunes and Lake Michigan itself, The Bowl was carved out of the earth by glaciers millions of years ago and was likely a small lake before drying up.Standing at the center of The Bowl and being surrounded on all sides by enormous walls of sand is quite breathtaking. The landscape is truly like no other. This awesome sight alone makes a trip to Laketown a summer necessity and a great, relaxing place to bring friends and family.
You can also check in there on Foursquare. Here’s another shot from the bowl from all the way back in 2007. Amazing to me how long Michigan in Pictures has endured – thank you all for staying with me!
More dunes on Michigan in Pictures.
August 9, 2012
Here’s a gorgeous shot from just after sunset on the Sleeping Bear Dunes. That little meteorite reminded me to check on the Perseids. EarthSky’s Meteor Shower Guide says that the Perseids will grace the sky August 10-12, 2012 with the peak the evening of the 11th.
Meteors are typically best after midnight, but in 2012, with the moon rising into the predawn sky, you might want to watch in late evening as well … The Perseids are typically fast and bright meteors. They radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero. You don’t need to know Perseus to watch the shower because the meteors appear in all parts of the sky. The Perseids are considered by many people to be the year’s best shower, and often peak at 50 or more meteors per hour in a dark sky.
The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. These meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains. Starting in late evening on the nights of August 10/11, 11/12 and 12/13. The Perseid meteors will streak across these short summer nights from late night until dawn, with only a little interference from the waning crescent moon. Plus the moon will be near the bright planets Venus and Jupiter in the eastern predawn sky.
If you want to keep up on when the meteors are showering, the Meteor page at Stardate.org is a great resource!
More on meteors from Michigan in Pictures!
July 3, 2012
May 26, 2012
January 31, 2012
This photo prompted me to dig out a ton of information & photos about this vanished part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes experience. Enjoy Sleeping Bear Dune Rides: Remembering the Dunesmobiles at Leelanau.com.
September 23, 2011
August 27, 2011
Sleeping Bear Dunes have been soaking up all the love in the media lately courtesy Good Morning America naming them the most beautiful place in America.
When I saw these photos I thought they were from Sleeping Bear, then I realized they were from Grand Mere State Park near St. Joseph, which the state of Michigan says is characterized by magnificent sand dunes, deep blowouts and one mile of Lake Michigan shoreline. Another page adds:
The magnificent high-relief dunes in Grand Mere were formed approximately 10,000 years ago during the recession of glacial lakes. They are a natural phenomenon not found anywhere else in the world. Located between Lake Michigan and several inland lakes and unique wetlands, the dunes afford an excellent perspective of the surrounding region. The lakes and wetlands provide a unique ecological area that encompasses the full range of open water aquatic to closed forest terrestrial communities. The wetlands and lakes are significant waterfowl and songbirds migrating areas.
More about Lake Michigan coastal dune structures in this really great Sand Dune Inventory.
August 22, 2011
August 18, 2011
On Leelanau.com yesterday, I reported that the Sleeping Bear Dunes have been named the most beautiful place in America by the viewers of Good Morning America.
Today I’ve been reading here and there of folks who are wondering if in fact the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore deserves that distinction. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s 1600+ pictures of the Sleeping Bear Dunes from the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr. Even better, here’s the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore homepage – take a trip and decide for yourself!
One of my favorite photographers who shoots in the dunes is Mark Lindsay. See this photo bigger and also in his Dunes slideshow.