Archive for the ‘Great Lakes’ Category
Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
Looking for something fun to do at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore after the sun goes down? Rangers are hosting a couple cool events this month.
Check out how you can celebrate National Park Week, Sleeping Bear Dunes style, by catching the acclaimed documentary, Chasing Ice, followed by a star gazing party at Platte Point Beach.
Did you know that National Park Week is April 20-28? On Saturday, April 27th, rangers are planning to celebrate with two showings of the documentary, Chasing Ice, followed later that evening with a sunset and star watching party on one of the parks most popular beaches.
The Big Screen
Chasing Ice follows filmmaker James Balog across the Arctic as he deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras designed for one purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers. Balog’s hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate.
Visitor’s Center showings are scheduled for 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Reservations are recommended. Seating is limited to 100 people per showing. Those with reservations will be seated first. Click here to make your reservation either by phone or email.
The Big Sky
After the final showing of the movie, park visitors have a few hours to get a bite to eat before heading down to Platte Point Beach (at the end of Lake Michigan Road in Benzie County) to catch the sunset followed by an evening of star gazing.
The “sun drop show” over Lake Michigan starts at 8:44 p.m. After the sunset, rangers will be on hand with telescopes for star viewing and constellation identification. A park pass is required for both events. Click here for more information.
Monday, April 22nd, 2013
Talk about taking a long walk on the beach! First, Battle Creek’s Loreen Niewenhuis walked 1,019 miles around Lake Michigan. Then, she walked another 1,004 miles along the shorelines of all five Great Lakes.
Niewenhuis has written two books about the experience and still considers the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore her favorite part. Read this USA Today article about her amazing journey along with information about her newest book, A 1000-Mile Great Lakes Walk, and upcoming appearances throughout the state.
Like Forrest Gump, who one day just put on his shoes and decided to set off on a little run, one day in 2009 Loreen Niewenhuis, decided to “do something completely different” by setting off on a journey around Lake Michigan.
Sixty four days later and writing in her blog about the adventure, Niewenhuis said the Sleeping Bear Dunes was the place her mind returned to most when recalling the experience. Her love for the region was clear in her first book, A 1000-Mile Walk on the Beach, in which she wrote about passionately about discovering the many wonders (and ecological threats) facing Lake Michigan.
Now she’s done it again by completing another 1,000 miles around the remaining Great Lakes. USA Today spoke with Niewenhouse this month in an article timed with the release of her latest about, A 1000-Mile Great Lakes Walk. At a time when lakes Michigan and Huron are at their lowest levels ever, Niewenhouse (who used to work as a research scientist/biologist) offers a unique, on-the-ground perspective on the state of the Great Lakes today.
Earlier this month, Niewenhuis launched her latest book tour with a signing at The Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor. To catch one of her dynamic presentations about her adventures and the ecology of the Great Lakes, check out her website (www.laketrek.com) for a list of more scheduled events and personal appearances throughout Michigan this summer.
Sunday, April 21st, 2013
The Homestead has partnered with naturalist photographer, Mark Carlson, and digital guru, Bob Grzesiak, to offer Great Lakes Photo Tours in the “Most Beautiful Place in America.” Find out how to get an insider’s pass to discovering the most scenic coastal outlooks and breathtaking natural wonders in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Have you ever been on vacation, looked at the postcards on the rack of a local souvenir shop, and wondered, Wow! Wouldn’t it be great to take pictures like that? If you’re planning a trip to Leelanau County and the Sleeping Bear Dunes next month, The Homestead knows two great northern Michigan image makers who would be more than happy to show you how.
So many guests of The Homestead have used the resort as a home base while attending one of Mark Carlson and Bob Grzesiak Great Lake Photo Tours that the resort now promotes this unique adventure with special rates of $149 for a one-day excursion; $249 for a two-day tour.
There are two, full day classes dates set for May, the peak of the spectacular wildflower season at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Participants on either date, May 11th or May 12th, will tour the lakeshore’s sprawling hardwoods and pastoral meadows in search of native flowers (over 40 species) common in the park. A special weekend-long tour (May 11tha nd 12th) offers photography lovers this insider’s tour of the Sleeping Bear Dunes plus the opportunity to experience the cherry orchards, historic barns and scenic hillsides of the park and surrounding Leelanau Peninsula.
Whether just learning your way around the camera or come into the tour as a more advanced “photog” looking to deepen your files, Carlson and Grzesiak can personalize your experience to make sure you get the most out of it.
Carlson’s images have appeared in magazine, books and calendars. His fine art photography regularly exhibits in galleries and private collections throughout th country. Carlson has been exploring the region since boyhood and presents a wealth of naturalist information to attendees, as well as many helpful tips and suggestions on how to make you a better nature photographer, regardless of equipment or skill level.
Grzesiak decodes the tech-talk of digital image photography into understandable, layman’s terms. His expertise in assisting digital photographers with their cameraand accessories allows tour attendees the opportunity to create cherished photographs, not just memories, while enjoying this unique photo excursion.
Together, your guides bring over 50 years of combined experience as professionals in their respective fields. Click here to see the May 2013 schedule. The Homestead is offering discount Great Lake Photo Tour packages throughout the season that includes a special rate that combines lodging and tour costs.
Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
Reports are putting the snowfall total for Leelanau County and the Sleeping Bear Dunes at around 125 inches for the season; in other words, a beautifully average winter.
Check out season through the camera lens of one of northern Michigan’s best known photographers, Ken Scott, and this slideshow that might make you a little sorry to see Old Man winter go.
From sunsets over the Empire Bluffs to starry skies over the Manitou Islands, Ken Scott has compiled a wonderful array of winter images from the Sleeping Bear Dunes on flickr. If you like what you see, check out Scott’s website for more information on posters, postcards and frame-quality prints.
Monday, April 8th, 2013
The park is open, but some visitors may notice changes. Automatic reduction in the federal budget (otherwise known as “sequester”) mean a 5-percent cut to the $4.7 million budget of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Here are the details on how federal spending reductions will affect services and attractions at northern Michigan’s favorite vacation destination.
Around $234,000 — that’s the amount gone from the budget of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this year due to sequestration spending cuts that took effect March 1st.
As part of the National Park Service, the Lakeshore is forced to take actions necessary to comply with sequestration. Nut the good news for peak summer visitors, according to a recent park update, is that these changes will not result in any park closings during peak season this summer.
“The park remains open, welcoming visitors and continuing to protect the resources entrusted to our care,” says Lakeshore Superintendent Dusty Shultz.
Seasonal Staff Cuts
With about 98 percent of the park’s $4,676,000 budget going to pay for staff salaries and fixed costs like utilities, seasonal staff are taking the biggest sequester hit with 22 seasonal positions being shortened and five seasonal jobs being cut all together.
According to a park service news release, reduced staffing will impact park operations in following ways:
- Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive will not open until Memorial Day Weekend and will close after Labor Day.
- Ranger programs, including environmental education programs for school groups, will not be available until Memorial Day Weekend and will cease after Labor Day.
- Other than those at the visitor center and campgrounds, restrooms and trash cans will not be available until Memorial Day Weekend and will close after Labor Day. This includes the Manitou Islands.
- Mowing of picnic areas and historic farmsteads will be sharply reduced.
- These actions are expected to affect over 250,000 visitors to the park, including 10,000 school children.
- Protection and monitoring of the endangered Piping Plover will be sharply reduced.
- Follow-up control of invasive plants such as black locust will be sharply reduced.The park also reports that travel, training, overtime and supply purchases are also being slashed to meet sequester goals for the fiscal year ending September 30th.
Sunday, April 7th, 2013
What do wine, waterfalls and asparagus have in common? Each is a central theme to three of the coolest warm-weather traditions happening around the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
It’s not too early to get a jumpstart on planning your spring calendar. This shortlist of the region’s best parties and most talked about events will get you rolling into summer.
Spring Sip & Savor — May 4th and 5th
As northern Michigan vineyards wake to the sun and warmth of May, the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association is inviting wine lovers to enjoy special wine and food pairings at each of the now 25 wineries surrounding the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Tickets for the annual “Sip & Savor” wine tour are just $35 and include wine and food pairings at each winery, a commemorative glass, a $5 gift certificate that can be used at any LPVA winery and a $5 donation to a select local charity to be announced in April.
Discount lodging packages are also being provided by area providers:
The Homestead: Sip and Savor package includes two nights lodging May 3rd to May 5th; dinner at Nonna’s one evening; tickets to the Sip & Savor wine trail event; and a pass to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Rates are from $94 per person, per night.
For added fun, Sip & Savor participants are encouraged to participate in the “Sip o’ de Mayo Hat Contest” for a chance to win prizes that many of the wineries will be offering. There’s also a fabulous grand prize of two nights lodging at The Homestead (subject to availability) and a pair of tickets to any LPVA weekend tour or the Traverse City Wine & Art Festival.
To get you tickets and to check out a complete list tour activities and special lodging packages, go to www.lpwines.com/spring.
Empire Asparagus Festival, May 17th, 18th, and 19th
Spring in the Sleeping Bear Dunes means lush green forests, sunny skies, morel mushroom hunting and the most ass-paragus kicking festivals in the North. Say what?
Listed as one of the World’s Weirdest Festivals by MSN Travel, the Empire Asparagus Festival kicks off with a dance and pig roast from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor on May 17th. Admission is only $5. Grab a pint of Right Brain Brewery’s asparagus beer (or any local brew you choose) and enjoy a good time and the great music of local band, The Benzie Playboys.
Saturday starts bright and early in Empire with a 5k walk/run, followed by an asparagus poetry-writing competition, asparagus food and beer eats, asparagus recipe cook-off, and more.
For the most up-to-date information on this wacky rite of spring, check out the Empire Asparagus Festival on Facebook.
Here Comes the Sun Party, May 27th
Party on the deck overlooking a waterfall, right next door to historic Fishtown. For 25 years, The Cove restaurant in Leland, Michigan, has been the place locals go to officially welcome sunny skies and warm temperatures to northernMichigan. With great food, local brews, creative cocktails and live entertainment, the annual “Here Comes the Sun Party” kicks off on Memorial Day at 11 a.m
Saturday, April 6th, 2013
Not only the best place in Michigan to vacation, LeelanauCounty— home of the Sleeping Bear Dunes — is now ranked as the healthiest place in state to live, according to a recent study by the University of Wisconsin.
Find out where your home county falls on the list, along with what factors make Leelanau an Eden for health-minded people.
Wayne County ranked dead last while Leelanau was number one in an annual study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the annual report ranks Michigan counties against each other based on six variables: mortality (length of life), morbidity (quality of life), health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.
While access to quality food and outdoor activities galore undoubtedly contributed to Leelanau taking the top slot, Universityof Wisconsin associate researcher Angela Russell told the Free Press that rankings were also driven by income and education levels.
“We know that communities with higher incomes and higher education levels are more likely to be healthier,” Russell said.
Click here to see where your county ranks along with a detailed, county-by-county breakdown of the numbers.
Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
A favorite Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore town made big news last month, but not for a good reason. Leland, home of historic Fishtown Harbor, might soon be facing tough times because of the dramatic drop in Lake Michigan water level.
Check out this report to find out what’s causing the problem, what’s at stake and how Leland community officials are working to keep the harbor open.
The beaches of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore have always been one of the biggest draws for visitors to the region. So you might think that receding lake levels would simply result in even more sandy shoreline for people to enjoy.
While that might be true at some of the most popular beaches located along the 65 miles of shoreline in Sleeping Bear Dunes, many places off the beaten path have changed to the point of becoming unrecognizable from photos taken a decade ago.
Some beach-goers are finding a barrier of weeds growing where waves once broke over beautiful sand. Lake Michigan is so low in other places that it requires a long walk over slippery rocks just to get to water that’s above the knees. And the low water issue is even worse in harbor towns like Leland where, according to this Chicago Tonight report, low water is threatening to hurt tourism in a big way.
The low water endangers Leland’s historic fishing industry: a huge tourist draw. Now the fishing boats, which were bought and are now run by the local preservation society, sit perilously close to the bottom of the lake. If the tugs do hit bottom, they will be stuck until water levels rise.
According to reporter, Elizabeth Brackett, scientists at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, blame “evaporation and less precipitation for the dropping lake levels.” The Great Lakes are getting warmer and the scientists Brackett interviewed blame climate change while also admitting more research needs to be done.
Leland harbor officials recorded a two foot drop in the average lake level last year. In 2012, the town raised $120,000 last year to pay for dredging to keep its harbor open. The looming question is how long the community can support this cost. Officials believe that, without recreational boats docking in Fishtown, there will be fewer visitors, which means business and shop owners will certainly suffer.
Click here to check out the full story. And to see for yourself just how much the water has fallen in Leland from 1986 to 2013, check out these images “is the Lake Michigan water level low?” by local photographer Ken Scott.
Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
In early October, roughly 300 dead or dying loons were found washed up on the beaches of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Biologists say “avian botulism” is to blame.
While loons have so far been hit the hardest, this year’s outbreak is not the worst biologists in the region have seen. Find out what causes avian botulism in shorebirds and why die-offs linked to the disease appear to be on the rise.
There’s a saying in news reporting that three examples of a story indicates a trend. If it’s true, then this year makes it more than official-the die-off of shorebirds infected with avian botulism at Sleeping Bear Dunes would appear to be becoming an annual event.
Avian botulism was first documented in the Great Lakes in the 1960s. According to the MDNR, botulism is a “paralytic condition brought on by the consumption of a naturally occurring toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.” Biologists believe that these toxins, concentrated in invasive quagga and zebra mussels that filter lake water, are passed from the fish that eat the mussels (namely round gobies) to the birds that then eat the infected fish. Once infected, shorebirds such as loons, grebes, gulls, cormorants and waterfowl become paralyzed, drown and, finally, wash ashore.
Old Problem, New Threat
While long a problem in southern U.S. reservoirs, botulism first became a Great Lake’s concern in 2006. During the height of the fall migratory season that year, the Tip of The Mitt Watershed Council based in Petoskey says nearly 3,000 dead birds infected with the disease were found in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This was followed by another mass die-off in the late summer and fall of 2007 when some 8,000 more dead birds turned up on the northern Lake Michigan shoreline.
After a two year hiatus, avian botulism struck northern Lake Michigan again in the summer of 2010 when scores of shorebirds again began washing up on area beaches. Sleeping Bear officials put out a call to volunteers who eventually discovered nearly 300 dead birds heading into fall and another 385 from early October to mid-November.
Biologists suspected that low water levels and a warmer than average summer-ideal breeding conditions for invasive mussels and the invasive fish that prey on them-helped sparked the 2010 outbreak. Bird lovers and biologists braced for another bad year in 2011, but the number of sick and dead birds detected seemed to drop with roughly 40 loons and a few dozen gulls and other shorebirds counted.
The Dead Zone
After volunteers and biologists walking the beaches of northwestern Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore counted nearly 300 dead or dying loons and other fish-eating birds last month, the Detroit Free Press asked park biologist Dan Ray to help explain why.
Many of the birds are migratorym coming from Ontario, the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin, as well as from northern Michigan, according to Ray. The Sleeping Bear Dunes, he said, is at “the end of a funnel” where migrating birds dying all over northern Lake Michigan happen to wash ashore.
Ray had no answer for how biologists plan to deal with future outbreaks of avian botulism. Likewise, there is not yet an explanation as to why loons seem to be topping the 2011 casualty list.
Watch Your Pets
In the meantime, biologists insist Lake Michigan beaches within the National Lakeshore remain safe for swimming and recreation. Park visitors should, however, exercise caution upon encountering bird or fish carcasses.
Botulism is not an infectious disease. It is poison. You must ingest the toxin, usually by eating an undercooked infected fish or animal, to become ill. You are not at risk for contracting botulism by swimming in Lake Michigan. Visitors bringing pets to the park should keep them leashed and away from dead animals on the beach. Pets may be poisoned if they eat dead birds or fish containing botulism.
For more information, please call the National Lakeshore at 231-326-5134 or visit their website at www.nps.gov/slbe. Also, check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sbdnl.
Saturday, September 22nd, 2012
There’s nothing like a little national recognition to give tourism a shot in the arm. One year after ABC’s Good Morning America viewers named the Sleeping Bear Dunes as the “Most Beautiful Place in America” local towns are bustling, the campgrounds are packed, and bookings are way up at area inns and resorts.
Hear what the locals are saying about how area business has changed and how long they think the boom will last.
Crazy, wonderful, and really fun to see – that’s how Lisa Myers, chief of interpretation and visitor services for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, describes life at the “Most Beautiful Place in America” over the last year.
“We know that visitation is up and has been ever since the Good Morning America announcement,” says Myers. The bump was immediate and is still reverberating.”
In 2011, viewers of the popular ABC morning show cast tens of thousands of votes for Sleeping Bear, edging out places like Sedona, Yosemite, Aspen, and Cape Cod.
As of July 31, 2012, visitation throughout the park was up 28 percent – a record 860,156 visitors (2,000 per day) compared to 668,527 at the same time last year. Myers says that overnight use of the D.H. Day Campground is up almost 25 percent. And even mainland backcountry campsite use is way up, with reservations at Valley View campground in the Leelanau District jumping 55 and 42 percent, respectively.
No Tourist Trap
Calling Sleeping Bear the “best-vacation-spot-in-the-country” on national television probably didn’t come as a surprise to 1.2 million visitors who already make the annual trek to this quiet corner of northwest Lower Michigan. But certainly surprising is how little the park experience has changed.
As writer, Melissa Anders, noted in a MLive article this summer, the uptick in visitors has translated into some lightly longer lines for Dune Dogs and at other area food, wine and tourist shops. But, overall, the park and surrounding communities have not complained about any of the other typical trappings of increased tourism – namely traffic tie-ups and trash. With its 35 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, 71,199 acres of farm country and coastal forest, 26 inland lakes, 12 miles of rivers and stream, and more than 100 miles of hiking, biking, and cross-country ski trails, the park experience is still the same as it ever was. Maybe even better for the future of Sleeping Bear, Myers told MLive.
“This is America’s national park,” she said. “It’s for everyone, and so the more people know about it, I think the better it will be protected because more people will realize how important it is and how valuable it is.”
A Place on the Water
Many area inns and resorts, namely The Homestead in Glen Arbor, also recorded a banner year of booking that show no sign of slowing down. The Homestead hit a milestone in 2011 with guests arriving from all 50 American states, five Canadian provinces, and three foreign countries.
And then there are vacationers who came and fell so in love with the place they wanted to return – some permanently – to the region.
Diane Kemp, Resort Realty Manager at The Homestead, says the sale of vacant land, condominiums, fractional-ownership properties and single-family homes has almost doubled in the last year.
“Almost everybody I talk to mentions the Good Morning America announcement,” she says, adding that this has had a positive impact on property values in the area. “Sellers at the resort are getting closer to their asking price and buyers – while many are still looking for the best value – are equally motivated by the prospect of getting a home in this most beautiful place.”
Many of the calls at The Homestead for vacations are now from people who have not been to the area before, according to Kemp. No doubt recent media attention on nearby Traverse City as a top destination for beer lovers, film goers, foodies, golfers, cyclists, boaters, book lovers, and retirees has helped. But Kemp also gives credit to the state’s Pure Michigan campaign along with coverage in other media outlets, including National Geographic Traveler magazine, Family Circle magazine and others as contributing factors that continue to keep the region in the minds of vacationers and vacation-home buyers.
“Because of that [the continued recognitions],” she says, “we believe this is a trend that can sustain itself for years to come.”