A Desert in Michigan?

When I think of sand, I think of the desert.  But how neat to enjoy sand dunes right here in Michigan – right alongside a beautiful lake!

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We explored the sand dunes at Silver Lake.  They are located along Lake Michigan between Muskegon and Ludington.  Over 2,000 acres of sand, the dunes are part of the Silver Lake State Park.  The park also includes four miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan, a mature forest, hiking trails and a sandy beach.

The state has set aside 450 acres for off-road vehicle rides.  Riders can bring their 4 x 4’s or they can rent off-road vehicles specially designed to meet the challenge of driving on sand.  An ORV (Off-Road Vehicle) sticker and a ten-foot orange flag is required to drive on the area.

There is also a section set aside for pedestrians to walk or sand board.

The southern section is reserved for those who do not want to drive or walk on the sand dunes but do want to explore them.  Mac Wood’s Dunes Rides has leased this section from the state park since 1930 and takes visitors on a great ride.

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My husband and I chose to take the tour and it was quite a ride.

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Our driver was a retired school teacher who has been driving the buggies every summer for 20 years.  The ride was about forty minutes and covered seven miles of up and down and around corners.  Although he never went faster than 35 miles (I was sitting next to the driver and kept an eye on his speed), it seemed much faster.  When we got the top of a hill he would speed up just before we headed down.  The kids on the ride loved that and screamed with delight.  We were entertained with silly stories by our driver and he also shared some of the history and ecology of the sand dunes.

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Along the way were things designed to give a laugh like this pair of legs sticking out of the sand.

We stopped at the top of one of the biggest hills and got out to take some pictures.

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Some of the information he shared with us explained a little of how the dunes were formed.  His explanation was simple, but here is a more detailed explanation for those of you who are interested.

When you think of sand dunes, you commonly associate them with the desert. If Michigan is not a desert, then why do we find dunes here? The answer lies in the Great Lakes, primarily Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron. All along the shores of these
beautiful lakes, wave action sorts the sediments in the near-shore area. As the waves pound the beach, much of the finer-than-sand-sized materials are carried out into deeper water while the sand-sized grains and larger particles and pebbles are moved nearer to the beach. During storms, large quantities of sand are moved past the beach. Eventually these piles dry out.  Until the sand dries, water between the grains holds the sand together. The adhesive quality of the water makes the sand temporarily immobile. The adhesion does not remain after the sand dries. The dry sand can then be transported and winnowed by the wind.  The wind carries the sand inland, where it is deposited as a dune.  A plant or some other object may deflect the wind. The deflection causes the wind velocity to decrease, and the sand is dropped or deposited. This leads to the formation of a larger and larger mound that will eventually become a dune. In time the mound may
become big enough to cover the object that started its formation.  In Michigan the supply of sand is not constant. So, in time, the dunes become covered with grasses and other forms of vegetation – even trees. In fact, some of Michigan’s sand dunes look more like “tree dunes”.  The climate encourages this vegetative cover. The presence of ground water near the surface further promotes vegetation. When vegetative cover prevents
the wind from moving the sand, the dunes are stabilized.  However, if the protective vegetation is removed, or if there are exceptionally high winds or the groundwater
level drops, the sand is exposed to wind erosion, and movement or migration begins again. The area where migration begins is called a blowout. Renewed dune movement can bury anything in its path, even the forests which once may have stabilized the dune. An example of a buried forest can be seen at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.

Copyright © 2001 by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Geological Survey Division (GSD).
The DEQ GSD grants permission to publish or reproduce this document, all or in part, for non-profit purposes.
The contents of this electronic document (whole or in part) can be used if, and only if, additional fees are not
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Chasing Lighthouses

When my husband and I moved to Michigan last fall we were anxious for spring to come so we could explore all the lighthouses in Michigan.

That story is told in:

Michigan’s Lighthouses

However, when spring came so did the rainy, cloudy days most of the Midwest has been experiencing.  We did have one beautiful weekend in May and we made a visit to Big Red Lighthouse in Holland, Mi.

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Big Red – Most Photographed Lighthouse in Michigan

While there we enjoyed the tulips that were everywhere in the town.  (If you ever get a chance to come to Holland for the Tulip Festival, take it.  You will not regret it.)

Welkom to Tulip Time

Sitting in our new home wishing, praying for some sunny days, finally we woke up Saturday to a perfect summer day.  Grabbing our camera, our Michigan travel book, we headed west to Lake Michigan.

When we take road trips we do not follow the beaten path.  For the most part we stay off the interstates and take all the side roads.  It takes longer but the trip is much more interesting.  Taking the back roads, we never know what we will see that will catch our eyes.  Many times we have found many interesting places that those who only travel the interstate never know exist.

We do take our GPS in case we get completely lost or if we get tired and want to find the quickest way to our destination.  But our own GPS is to just head in the direction of our journey’s end and “follow our nose” until we reach our target.

Our first stop on Saturday’s trip was the beach at Muskegon.  After the rainy, damp spring, what a sight to see the white sand the beautiful lake with the bright blue sky.

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Walking along the sand, we headed to the lighthouse there.  Muskegon’s first lighthouse was built in 1851.  In 1870 a house was built for the light keeper.  This replaced the 1851 lighthouse and was topped with a cast-iron lantern room for a light.  In time a fog horn structure was built with an elevated walk to connect the lighthouse with the fog horn.

In 1903 the existing wooden building was replaced with a conical steel tower, the Muskegon South Pierhead Light.  In 1929 the Muskegon South Breakwater Light was built.

Like many of these historic lighthouses over time they have deteriorated.  The Federal Government awarded both the Muskegon South Pierhead and the South Breakwater lighthouses to the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy in June.  They have both been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The US Coast Guard still is in charge of the lights at the top and the fog signal.

Tours are granted but since my knees are old and arthritic, we chose to just view from the beach, but I can imagine what a view it would be to climb to the top.

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Muskegon South Pierhead Light

 

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Muskegon South Breakwater Light

We drove on south to Grand Haven to the see the two lights there.  The two lighthouses are connected by a lighted catwalk and we were looking forward to taking a walk along the pier.  However, when we arrived at the beach, the traffic was terrible.  We drove and drove but could find no parking space.  Again, because of my knees, we could not park too far away and walk down to the lighthouses.

So, disappointed, we tried to take some pictures from a distance.

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I wish we could have been closer because the outer light from a distance looks a lot like Big Red Lighthouse.

We thought we would go back during the week when maybe the crowds were be smaller but my Michigan friends tell me it is a popular spot.  So – we will just settle for a look from a distance and move on to our next adventure chasing lighthouses.

 

 

Here Comes the Sun!

After a long winter – today the sun is out!  It’s 71 degrees.

So let’s celebrate the sun!  I’m so ready for flowers, birds and walks in the park.

Are you?  Enjoy the sun – and the music!