Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore- III

This is the last in a three part series about the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Part 1 focused on a brief history, while Part 2 highlighted things to see and do. This third and final installment will focus on getting married in the park.

Northern Michigan wedding photo

The Lakeshore is a superb place for a small Northern Michigan destination wedding. The beauty found within the park provides a stunning setting for small wedding ceremonies-very small. No formal receptions are allowed. The permits are geared mainly to intimate ceremonies in an effort to minimize impact on the landscape.

As the park is first and foremost geared towards the stewardship of resources and limiting intrusion on park users, regulations are very specific and somewhat limiting.

The majority of the most desirable sites (Esch Road beach, Good Harbor Bay at 651 and 669, and the historic farmsteads) allow up to 50 guests and are available year round. The application includes a list of details specific to the common sites.  Special provisions for parking and in certain situations garbage need to be made in order to secure the permit. Application fees are nominal and non refundable ($50), and once the permit is granted, more fees will apply. Additional insurance may also be necessary to secure the permit.

Although the maximum size listed is 25-50 for most locations, the application does state that if you are seeking to use an area not listed or if your proposed guest count exceeds group size limitations as detailed, additional fees may be charged. It is determined on a case by case basis by park officials.

Of course, a trip to the park is essential if you are hoping to host a ceremony there, but if you are looking for a stunning venue for your intimate ceremony and are willing to work with the park service, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is the place for you.




Photo: Cammie Buehler



Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, II

image of a view of lake michigan This is a continuation of last week's post, which outlined a brief history of the lakeshore.  In researching and collecting notes about the park, it was evident the topic warranted more than one post.

Something that amazes me about the Lakeshore is the diversity of landscape within the park, and the varied opportunities for discovery that it provides.

Hiking in the park is a must do. In addition to seeing wildlife, experiencing mixed hardwood forests, dunescapes and inland lakes, one is almost always rewarded with a stunning view.

There are about 100 miles of trails in the park, and one of the most noteworthy is Alligator Hill, shown above.  Popular with cross country skiers in the winter, this area offers intermediate and advanced terrain and remarkable views of the Manitou and Fox Islands.  Other popular hikes include Sleeping Bear Point, Empire Bluff Trail, and Good Harbor Bay trail.

The landscape is also peppered with old farmsteads with original buildings.  Farmhouses, barns, milk houses, silos, corn cribs and sugar shacks can all be found. Most of these farms are very close to the road and easily accessible. The Park Service encourages park users to get out hike around the farms - to imagine oneself as a settler at the turn of the 20th century. The photo immediately below is of the granary and corn crib from Dechow Farm, and below that is a picture of the farmhouse on the Thoreson Farm.

image of a milkhouse and granary

The beaches are another highlight of the Lakeshore. There are stunning beaches all along the lakeshore. White sand and azure waters mean these beaches rival some of the most beautiful in the world. From North to South, the beaches at County Road 651 and 669, Glen Haven at the Cannery, Empire and Esch Road Beach are all remarkable and easily accessible from M-22. The photo below is from Sleeping Bear Point.

Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore is truly remarkable. The Phillip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire has a wealth of information about the park. There is so much to do and see! Make sure you schedule ample time to explore the woods, beaches and farmsteads of the lakeshore on your next trip to the area.

This is the second in a three-part series. Next week's post will focus on getting married in the park.

Photos: top and bottom: Cammie Buehler, farmsteads, courtesy of


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore:Part 1

Northern Michigan has an abundance of natural beauty to boast about, but the crown jewel is definitely the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is comprised of over 50,000 acres of protected lands in Leelanau and Benzie Counties, and lies on the Northwest lower peninsula of the mitten.  The North and South Manitou Islands are also part of the Lakeshore.

The area that is know to locals as simply "the Park" has a rich history, comprised of Native American, logging, maritime/ shipping, and agricultural elements.

In fact the Lakeshore was named after a Chippewa legend. The condensed version of the story is that a mother bear and her two cubs fled a massive forest fire in Wisconsin by swimming across the lake. They swam for many hours, but the cubs fell behind as the mother bear pressed on. When she reached the shore she climbed to a high bluff. Exhausted, the cubs drowned within sight of the shore. The legend states that the Great Spirit Manitou created the islands to represent the cubs and one solitary dune to represent the Mother.

The Manitou Passage is the channel between the Manitou Islands and the Mainland. This area was essential to the settling of the region as the islands were ideally situated to resupply ships with much needed lumber to refuel their boilers. Docks were built and logging commenced. Heavy with ship traffic, unmarked shoals and unpredictable weather, many Great Lakes ships were lost, prompting an act of congress following the exceptionally fatal (214 mariner deaths) winter of 1870-1871. Life Saving Service was established to conduct shore rescues and lighthouses were built, some of which can be toured today.

There are many ways to explore the beauty of the park. A great way to start is a day at the beach. Esch Road, Port Oneida, Glen Haven, and Good Harbor all have beautiful white sand beaches. There are also trails that criss-cross all over the park. Check out a trail map- you will find Pyramid Point and Glen Haven on the top of the list of local's favorites. There is also the dune climb, Empire Bluffs, and North Bar Lake to keep you busy.  The Cannery and the Maritime Museum in Glen Haven are also worth a visit.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a treasure - and a vast resource as far as recreation goes. Of course, no matter where you like to play in the park, a trip to Art's Tavern in Glen Arbor is always a must.

This is Part 1 of a 3 part series.

Here is Part 2

Here is Part 3




Photos courtesy of, traverse