Beautiful Grand Mere Dunes

Beautiful Grand Mere Dunes by Mark Swanson

Beautiful Grand Mere Dunes by Mark Swanson

Michigan Trail Maps says that Grand Mere State Park:

…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.

Mark took this photo a couple months ago & you can see more in his Spring gallery on Flickr.

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South Fox Island Light Station

South Fox Island Light Station by Dusty Klifman / Blueyes Below

South Fox Island Light Station by Dusty Klifman / Blueyes Below

My company recently completed a new website for the Fox Island Lighthouse Association. Their website explains:

The South Fox Light Station is located 22 miles offshore in NW Lake Michigan, south of Beaver Island and north of the Manitous. The 115 acres of MI state-owned land has much to offer, with seven original structures still standing and acres of pristine dune and wildlife; it is one of the most unique stations on Lake Michigan. The original tower was lit in 1867; the fog signal and oil house were built in 1895. The Workshop and Boat House were built in 1897. In 1934, the 68’ steel skeletal tower was brought from Sapelo Island, GA and reassembled on the island (automated in 1958). The two-story Assistant Keepers Quarters was added in 1910. The station was decommissioned in 1969.

In 1971, the State of Michigan bought the station from the Department of the Interior with a promise to provide recreational opportunity and access to the public.

You can head over to their website for information & photos about the station, its structures, and how you can help them with their work.

Diver/photographer Dusty Klifman of Blueyes Below, provided some photos for the website & the cool drone footage. Check him out for lots more photos & videos of shipwrecks & other maritime subjects.

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Michigan Beach Fashion: February Edition

South Haven Area Fire-Rescue-EMS by William Dolak

South Haven Area Fire-Rescue-EMS by William Dolak

We’re getting to the portion of the winter where the ice begins to build out on the Great Lakes. As a person who grew up on Lake Michigan, I’ve enjoyed the ice safely for decades & will undoubtedly continue to do so and also to share photos of the incredible beauty of the frozen lakes. I want to make sure however that folks understand venturing on the ice in winter can be deadly, particularly if you don’t take precautions. Though EMT workers know this and train to help people in peril, if you fall into one of the Great Lakes, you will very probably die. You can read more of my thoughts on this post on Michigan in Pictures.

Bill took this last weekend in South Haven & writes:

It’s 16 degrees at the beach – this is what the cool kids are wearing on South Beach, South Haven. These three are with the South Haven Area Fire-Rescue-EMS and were out to practice a little cold-water rescue, ‘cuz, unfortunately, someone is gonna need it sooner or later.

See the photo bigger in our Michigan in Pictures Group on Facebook & for sure follow him on Flickr!

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Into the frosty past

Push Ice Lake Michigan by Charles Bonham

Push Ice, Lake Michigan by Charles Bonham

The Traverse City Ticker reports that with less than 2% ice coverage so far, the Great Lakes are experiencing record low ice cover this winter:

According to Dr. Jia Wang, a research ice climatologist and physical oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the Great Lakes region is experiencing “warmer-than-usual weather” this season due to a combination of weather patterns including strong La Niña conditions. As a result, the maximum ice cover on the Great Lakes is only projected to reach 30 percent this year, Wang says – “way below” the average of 53 percent. Lake Michigan is expected to reach a maximum ice cover of just 23 percent, compared to an average 40 percent.

The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay has records for nearly two centuries on the freeze rate of West Grand Traverse Bay, including when it reaches the freeze point each year (if at all) and how many days it stays frozen over. While the Great Lakes often follow cyclical patterns, data shows that trends appear to be intensifying in recent years – a result many scientists attribute to climate change and include categories like water levels and ice cover. That trend can also be seen in Grand Traverse Bay freeze records, according to Watershed Center Executive Director Christine Crissman.

“If you look at the last 170 years overall, the bay definitely freezes over a majority of the time,” she says. “But if you start looking more closely at recent years, we are seeing a trend of less ice cover. From 1980 to present, the bay has only frozen over 38 percent of the time. Before 1980, it was 84 percent of the time. And even when it does freeze now, it doesn’t tend to freeze as long as it used to. It might be 20 to 40 days, where it used to be 70 days, 116 days.”

Charles took this photo back in 2015 off Gills Pier on the Leelanau Peninsula. Head over to his Flickr for more!

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Magnetic North: Northern Lights likely tonight!

Magnetic North by Aaron Springer

Magnetic North by Aaron Springer

The NOAA/NWS Space Weather Prediction Center reports that geomagnetic Storm Watches are in effect from December 10th & 11th, 2020 due to anticipated Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) effects giving us a good chance of seeing the northern lights! The CME occurred on December 7th and analysis suggests CME arrival possible late on 9 December, initially resulting in G1 (Minor) storm levels. As CME effects continue, activity is likely to increase, especially if the magnetic field carried with the CME connects well with Earth’s magnetosphere. The potential for strong storm levels exists and a G3 (Strong) Watch is in effect for December 10th. CME-related disturbances are forecast to continue into 11 December, likely resulting in G2 (Moderate) storm levels 

As a quick rule of thumb, we can occasionally see Northern Lights at the G1 level, often at G2 and almost definitely at G3. Here’s hoping for clear skies!!

Aaron took this photo  at Otter Creek in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore back in March of 2015 & shared: A very memorable night. After seeing all 4 indicators in red on [a now defunct aurora tracker website] (and I had never seen that before), I bolted for the lake with what was an already late start. Soon after arriving I punched through the ice while jumping from flow to flow in the shallows. This was the first time I have ever shot these and despite having one leg wet to the knee I managed to stay out for five hours on sheer excitement. 

See more in his Aurora Borealis gallery on Flickr & here’s hoping for some clear skies tonight!

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Surf’s Up in Michigan!

Surfs Up by Julie

Surfs Up by Julie

While it seems crazy, winter, particularly November & December, are Michigan’s best surfing season. If you take a look through our photos of Michigan surfing, you’ll see that the biggest waves are the ones that come with snow & cold.

Julie took this on Sunday in Charlevoix when the temperature was a balmy 37 degrees. Head over to her Flickr for a shot of all five surfers who were out and see lots more in her Lighthouses gallery on Flickr. 

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A Cold Drink

A Cold Drink by Mark Smith

A Cold Drink by Mark Smith

Mark captured this shot of Lake Michigan in the village of Leland looking mighty chill! See his latest at downstreamer on Flickr.

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Happy 50th Birthday, Sleeping Bear Dunes

via leelanau.com…

The Big Sweep by Mark Smith

The Big Sweep by Mark Smith

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was officially authorized on October 21, 1970 making today the 50th birthday of Michigan’s most visited national park. Our Sleeping Bear Dunes History page says in part:

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!

Mark took this photo back in 2018. See lots more in his Sleeping Bear/Glen Arbor gallery on Flickr!

More from the Sleeping Bear on Michigan in Pictures!

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Big Red & Lunar Earthshine

Evening Lunar Earthshine by Kevin

Evening Lunar Earthshine by Kevin

Our friends at EarthSky explain that lunar earthshine happens:

When you look at a crescent moon shortly after sunset or before sunrise, you can sometimes see not only the bright crescent of the moon, but also the rest of the moon as a dark disk. That pale glow on the unlit part of a crescent moon is light reflected from Earth. It’s called earthshine.

To understand earthshine, remember that the moon is globe, just as Earth is, and that the globe of the moon is always half-illuminated by sunlight. When we see a crescent moon in the west after sunset, or in the east before dawn, we’re seeing just a sliver of the moon’s lighted half.

Now think about seeing a full moon from Earth’s surface. Bright moonlight can illuminate an earthly landscape on nights when the moon is full.

Likewise, whenever we see a crescent moon, a nearly full Earth appears in the moon’s night sky. The full Earth illuminates the lunar landscape. And that is earthshine. It’s light from the nearly full Earth shining on the moon.

Read more at EarthSky.

Kevin captured the crescent moon hanging in the western sky over the “Big Red” Lighthouse at Holland State Park. See more in his gallery The Moon on Flickr.

More of and about the moon on Michigan in Pictures!

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Night Sky & Aurora from Empire Beach

Night Sky from Empire Beach by Imagination Works

Night Sky from Empire Beach by Nicholas McCreedy

The NASA/NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a G2 (Moderate) Storm Watch for September 28-29th. This means that folks in Michigan, particularly in the northern half, have a solid chance to see the northern lights!

Nicholas shared some tasty photos of the Northern Lights from Empire Beach in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Click to see them in the Northern Lights/Skies of Leelanau County NW Michigan group on Facebook & you can follow him at Imagination Works on Facebook as well!

Dig into our posts about the Aurora Borealis (northern lights) on Michigan in Pictures for all kinds of tips & science behind this beautiful phenomen!

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