…is a 985-acre unit in Berrien County that lacks the amenities found in most other state parks along Lake Michigan, including a campground and even direct access to its mile of Lake Michigan shoreline. It attracts only a fraction of the visitors that flock to parks such as Warren Dunes or Hoffmaster. Yet from a naturalist’s point of view Grand Mere is one of the most inquiring set of dunes in the state, an area so ecologically diverse that it 1976 it was designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Congress.
The glaciers that scooped out the Great Lakes 10,000 years ago also carved out a number of smaller depressions along the western edge of the state, which evolved into interdunal lakes, ponds, and wetlands. At one time, this area contained a chain of five such lakes that were protected ecologically by a line of windblown sand dunes between them and Lake Michigan. Now there are only three, a result of aquatic succession. Today Grand Mere is a textbook example of the various stages of succession from aquatic communities to terrestrial. Beginning at North Lake, you can see how each lake is progressively disappearing, with open water first turning into marsh and then woodland swamps and closed bog forests, the fate of the former two lakes that lie south of the park.
Almost 4 miles of trails form a loop through open dunes and the wooded areas of the park, but the only designated trail is a half-mile Nature Trail. The paved, handicapped accessible trail extends from the picnic shelter around South Lake, passing 10 interpretive posts that correspond to back of the park map. The rest of the trails are neither posted nor maintained. The most distinguishable trail extends almost a mile from a small parking area off Wishart Road to the west end of the Nature Trail.
Neil captured this stunning shot of the galactic core of our Milky Way stretching across the night sky over Silver Lake Sand Dunes during a recent visit. Head over to neilweaverphotography.com or follow him on Facebook for more great pics!
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was established by Act of Congress October 21, 1970. Public Law 91-479 states, “…the Congress finds that certain outstanding natural features, including forests, beaches, dune formations, and ancient glacial phenomena, exist along the mainland shore of Lake Michigan and on certain nearby islands in Benzie and Leelanau Counties, Michigan, and that such features ought to be preserved in their natural setting and protected from developments and uses which would destroy the scenic beauty and natural character of the area.” The Congress also directed that “…the Secretary (of the Interior) shall administer and protect Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in a manner which provides for recreational opportunities consistent with the maximum protection of the natural environment within the area.”
…The Lakeshore mission is to preserve outstanding natural features including forests, beaches, dunes and ancient glacial phenomena along 100 km (64 miles) of Lake Michigan shoreline, in order to perpetuate the natural setting for the benefit and enjoyment of the public, and to protect it from developments and inappropriate uses that would destroy its scenic beauty, scientific and recreational value.
I know that there’s few people in Leelanau who would disagree that the park has helped to maximally protect our area’s incredible natural beauty with over 60 miles of shoreline open & accessible to all as well as miles of forest, dune & farmland. Head over to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Facebook page for all kinds of 50th Anniversary fun!
…2.5 miles of secluded Lake Michigan shoreline and 1,000 acres of steep slopes, rolling hills and fresh water coastal dunes more than 200 feet tall. The beach is a two-thirds mile hike from the picnic parking area.
The park’s major attraction are the long sandy beach and the 300-acre natural area, which contains a coastal dune system containing three endangered plant species. Nature enthusiasts, birdwatchers and hikers are the predominant day users.
The park, located in Allegan County, is relatively undeveloped. The land was acquired in 1971 from the Augustinian Order, who used the buildings as a seminary. When the state took ownership, the structures were used as a prison and state police offices.
Mark took this beautiful photo a couple of summers ago on the Treat Farm Trail in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Guessing it looks much the same today, but you should check it out just to be sure! 😉
Head over to Mark’s Flickr for more & here’s the Park’s writeup on the trail:
The trail that leads from the corner of Norconk Road into the woods is about ½ mile long through the maple-beech forest and will take you to the Treat Farm. As you reach the top of the hill, the canopy of trees opens up to a view of the farmstead. A portion of the original barn has been rebuilt on the original foundation.
Visitors are drawn to this intriguing farmstead for several reasons. The trail leading up the slight incline from Norconk Road holds an allure of its own… it seems to beckon passers-by. It piques the curiosity by conjuring visions of what might be at its terminus. It is also one of the most beautiful areas for spring wildflowers in all of Michigan!
…provides 1,952 acres of recreational opportunities along the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan in southwestern Michigan. The rugged dune formation rises 260 feet above the lake and offers spectacular views and excellent for hang gliding. The park has three miles of shoreline, six miles of hiking trails and is open year-round. Pet-friendly shoreline.
The dunes and beach area was preserved by a local businessman, Edward K. Warren, who originally purchased the site as a favor to a friend who had encountered significant financial difficulties. By 1930, the Warren Dunes area had been taken over as a state park