Sleeping Bear Dunes Ghost Forest

Ghost Forest

Ghost Forest, photo by Neil Weaver Photography

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 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.

See Neil’s photo bigger and see more in his Sleeping Bear Dunes slideshow. You can see a bunch more shots from Sleeping Bear for viewing & purchase on his website!

More dunes on Michigan in Pictures.

2 thoughts on “Sleeping Bear Dunes Ghost Forest

  1. Thank you for posting on the Dunes. I never tire of reading about them, seeing them in pictures, or visiting them. The nature of a sand dune is ‘change’. It is daily molded and shaped by the wind. I saw a significant change from the seventies to the new century, as described in “Memory Lake”. Let’s hope the Dunes remain long past our lifetimes!


  2. On a hike, my partner and I got “Off Trail” and stumbled upon the Ghost Forest. One of my favorite photography moments and memories. I will return there with my children someday. A truly unique place on this marble we call earth.


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