Lake Michigan, Unsalted
On the northwestern shore of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, in Leelanau County, lies the lakeside village of Glen Arbor, smack dab in the middle of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Got sand? Plenty! And then some! The Sleeping Bear is an area unlike any other which makes Glen Arbor pretty unique: It’s positioned between Lake Michigan and Glen Lake, one of the most beautiful in the world.
Some visitors find it hard to believe that all this water is fresh and unsalted. We have even been referred to as “The Third Coast.” The National Lakeshore covers over 50,000 acres along Lake Michigan replete with hills and forests of birch, pine, beech and maple. The Lakeshore encompasses numerous small lakes and rivers (perfect for fishing), sugar sand beaches (perfect for swimming) and, of course, the massive coastal sand dunes and bluffs which climb to over 400 feet. (Perfect for running and jumping). Because of all the big water, we are blessed with abundant lake effect snow so we can’t leave out downhill skiing at The Homestead or close by at Crystal Mountain. Offshore in Lake Michigan lie the North and South Manitou Islands, the areas of first Leelanau County settlement and wholly a part of the Lakeshore.
The focal point of Glen Arbor is certainly the National Park itself. (www.nps.gov/slbe.com) At the Phillip Hart Visitor Center, located at M22 and M72, in the village of Empire, you can pick up trail maps, view interpretive dioramas and talk to rangers as you plan your attack of the area. Don’t miss the Empire Bluffs trail…..WOW! North and South Bar Lakes are only steps from Lake Michigan and can be a perfect refuge on a sunny, but windy, day.
The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is definitely a must-do activity when visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This 7.4 mile self-guided auto tour provides the visitor with insight to the history of the area, an explanation of how hardwood forests give way to sand dunes, and, best of all, spectacular overlooks of the Glen Lakes, the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan. World-class vistas will give you a feel for Michigan that you may have never thought possible! Where are we??
Below is a view of Glen Lake from the Glen Lake Overlook stop on the Scenic Drive. If you look closely, you can see M-22 separate Big and Little Glen Lake. A picture can not describe what you'll see, so you'll just have to visit the park and see for yourself!
D.H. Day's farm - which is right across from the Dune Climb - is no longer active but still very beautiful. The National Park Service now owns the Sleeping Bear Dunes, D.H. Day Park and Glen Haven and the buildings within it. A number of the buildings - notably, the Coast Guard Station, Life Saving Station, Glen Haven Canning Company and D.H. Day store - have been restored and are open to the public.
Although the villages in the area of the Sleeping Bear Dunes are small, they are rich with shops, galleries, music, food and wine. And, they are very much unlike what you will find at the malls or in the cities. That is because the beauty of the area and its relaxed waterfront lifestyle has always drawn creative, independent people. The Glen Arbor Art Association is alive and well promoting the arts, for the public, as well as the artists. www.glenarborart.org
In addition to vacationing on or near the Lake Michigan beaches, you are sure to enjoy all the lakes and rivers while swimming, fishing, sailing, boating, canoeing and kayaking. The outdoor activities suit all age levels so there isn’t anything better than family vacations and exactly why so many families have come back for generations. Charter fishing is available through thesportsmanshop.com. We have big water, as in Lake Michigan, but there are lots of smaller and equally beautiful lakes such as Lime Lake, Little Traverse Lake, North and South Bar Lakes, Big and Little Fisher Lakes and the Crystal River. A round of golf can be played while enjoying spectacular water views. Sunsets are not to be missed!
There are wonderful opportunities to own property in the Glen Lake area, as any of the residents, full-time or part-time, can attest to. The variety of homes and cottages is as endless as the coastline whether you want to own or rent. The Homestead, America’s Freshwater Resort, offers single family homes and condominiums, on the water, in the woods and on top of hills. With it’s own golf course, ski hill and tennis courts there isn’t any time to waste, let alone any season. It’s a lovely destination for weddings and events.
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is rich in history from early Native American cultures to the shipping, logging, and agricultural heritage of the area. Even the name of the area comes from the Native American Legend of Sleeping Bear. (www.nps.gov/archive/slbe/legend.htm)
Long before there were roads and highways in Michigan, people and goods were being transported regularly on the ships of the Great Lakes. The Manitou Passage (between the Manitou Islands and the mainland) was a busy corridor for commercial shipping. The location of the Manitou Islands made them ideal for a refueling stop for steamers to pick up wood for their boilers. That was one of the driving forces for early settlement of the islands which interestingly enough happened before settlement of the mainland. Docks were built, and trees were cut to fuel the growing Great Lakes Shipping fleet. The high amount of ship traffic, the unpredictable weather, and unmarked gravel and sand shoals in this area, caused many ships to be lost. Many scuba divers enjoy viewing the area from the underwater perspective. In 1871, congress created the US Life-Saving Service to conduct rescues from shore. The Coast Guard Station at Sleeping Bear Point was established in 1901, and became the U.S. Life-Saving Station and is now is the Maritime Museum of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Lighthouses were also built at strategic points along the shore to guide ships safely along their way. There were several lighthouses in and around the Sleeping Bear Dunes. The South Manitou Island lighthouse is open for tours and Manitou Island Transit, which operates from the harbor at Leland, provides regular ferry service to both islands. The 16-mile trips take about 1½ hours each way.
This area that many call home is special to the 6,032 year around residents, as of the 2000 census. You’ll find them out and about in every season and in all kinds of weather. Besides all the warmer weather activities, they will be ice fishing, cross country skiing, down hill skiing, snowshoeing as well as taking advantage of all the cultural events happening locally, in Traverse City and Interlochen. A good many “snow birds” travel to warmer climates but the “penguins” wouldn’t think of leaving and why, miss a few good snow storms?…..NEVER!