River Count Volunteers Needed

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is seeking volunteers to assist with conducting its bi-annual River Use Counts on the Crystal and Platte Rivers. River use counts are conducted every other year to document park visitors’ enjoyment of these unique natural resources. Information collected helps park officials to better understand recreational use of the rivers and how to best preserve the outstanding habitat they provide.

Volunteers will be asked to commit to a five to six hour shift, counting the number of visitors that pass by a given spot on each river. This is the perfect opportunity to relax in the great outdoors and enjoy a good book.
We are looking for volunteers who can assist with any one of the following days/shifts:


Crystal River

  • Saturday, August 1 (9:00 am to 2:00 pm) and (1:00 pm to 7:00 pm)
  • Tuesday, August 4 (9:00 am to 2:00 pm) and (1:00 pm to 7:00 pm)
  • Wednesday, August 5 (9:00 am to 2:00 pm) and (1:00 pm to 7:00 pm)

Platte River

  • Friday, July 31 (9:00 am to 2:00 pm) and (1:00 pm to 7:00 pm)
  • Saturday, August 1 (9:00 am to 2:00 pm) and (1:00 pm to 7:00 pm)
  • Wednesday, August 5 (9:00 am to 2:00 pm) and (1:00 pm to 7:00 pm)

If you would like to assist the park in this effort, or would like more information, please contact Renee Babiarz at or (231) 326-4762

Adopt-A-River Clean Up June 24

Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes Adopt-A-River Clean Up scheduled June 24th. 
We are back on the water, come join the fun! 
We will begin with a brief welcome and orientation followed by the river cleanup. You may bring your own kayak or  Riverside Canoe Livery  will provide you with one, please email the program coordinator listed below to RSVP.
Transportation to the “put in” location will be provided.
If you have a “Friends” vest and litter gitter, please bring them with you. If not, we will have some available for use.
Please bring a mask which will be required while being transported in the transportation vehicles. The “put in” location is at the Canoe/kayak access point at Lake Michigan Rd. and Hwy 22. 
Date: June 24th: 10 am 
Location: Meet at the Canoe/kayak access point at Lake Michigan Rd. and Hwy 22
Any needed equipment and transportation will be provided by Riverside Canoe/Kayak Livery.
Pizza will be provided for all volunteers at Sue’s Riverfront, which has outside seating.
Do not attend the cleanup if you have any symptoms of Coronavirus. 
You must fill out the daily self-assessment checklist BEFORE you come into the park to participate:
If you are not currently a member of the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, please fill out the Friends Volunteer Registration Form and Park volunteer service agreement available for you to sign prior to attending the river clean up.
Please email me ( to let us know if you will be attending the river cleanup and if you need a kayak. We need this information to plan transportation requirements.

Looking forward to seeing you on June 24th!!

Summer Volunteer Training

Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes Hosts Volunteer Training Sessions through Zoom.
Join the annual Friends volunteer training zoom session for registered Friends members. Presenters will include speakers from the Park Interpretive and Law Enforcement divisions as well as Chairpersons for different volunteer positions. Park staff will address questions about volunteering in the Park during COVID restrictions.
Adopt-A-Beach and Adopt-A-River Orientation: Thursday, June 4 at 2:00 pm.
Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail Ambassadors, Adopt-a-Trail, and Trail Crew Orientation, Thursday, June 4th at 4:00 pm.
Watch your email for a zoom invitation and instructions, coming soon!
Anyone who is not a current Friends member can apply by filling out the application form through the Friends website:
For more information, email Mary Peterson at 
We are still seeking a few special Friends with specific talents and good organizational skills who want to join our team: Membership Record Manager and Fund Development Director positions are currently open. 
For more information, visit our previous post:

Winter Snowshoe Hikes

The National Park will be holding weekly Ranger-led Snowshoe hikes in the park.

There will be two hikes each Saturday, one for beginners called the Snowshoe Saunter and one for more experienced snowshoe hikers called the Snowshoe Trek.

Reservations are required but snowshoes are not and will be loaned at no charge to participants. For more information and learn more about the events on the park’s website: and to make a reservation for a hike, Please call 231-326-4700, extension 5010.


Weekly Snowshoe Hikes

Date: Saturdays 

Time: 1:00 PM

Location: Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire

Purchase our book, The Life of the Sleeping Bear

The Life of the Sleeping Bear celebrates the world-famous Sleeping Bear Dunes area — its land and people — from prehistoric to modern times. Blending art, history, and science, the book contains vivid pictures, fascinating facts, and helpful graphics and maps to provide a rich and colorful tour of this precious geological and environmental area.
Find out more information about the book here

Kettles Trail Update

Work on the new Kettles Trail has been completed for this year. We have a few more things to add in 2020 – an interpretive overlook at the bog, and an interpretive sign and bench at the end of the Accessible portion of the trail. 

The trailhead is located on Baatz Road near Fritz Road, and you are invited to stop by and hike this new addition to the portfolio of hiking trails at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore! A map of trailhead location, trail map, and other info about the trail is available on the Kettles Trail page.

Planning and construction of this new 3-mile long hiking trail was a joint effort between Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore management and staff, Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, YouthWork youth corps, SEEDS youth corps, and many volunteers! This year we had a volunteer work day in early June to finish the parking lot and work on the accessible portion of the trail.

Volunteers plant grass seed around the new parking lot.

A YouthWork crew worked alongside the NPS crew for the entire month of August. They improved the accessible portion of trail and built the bench-cut trail on the north end of the trail loop, which travels along a steep hillside with a bog way down below. They had to remove 9 huge stumps (by hand) to create this portion of the trail! 

YouthWork had a crew of 3 team leaders and 7 different members that participated in the Kettles Trail project. All of them learned a lot about trail design and really worked hard. Those 7 members logged hours towards educational awards, which in total amounted to $10,000 in scholarships. The YouthWork program is affiliated with AmeriCorps and we are happy to be able to support this important program.

Some of the YouthWork crew

New Benches installed on Heritage Trail

Have you noticed some new benches along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail (SBHT)?  We just installed 8 new benches, bringing the total to 14.

After the first section of the SBHT was built in 2012, we started asking trail users what we could do to improve their trail experience. The most frequent request was for more benches along the trail – especially between Glen Arbor and the Dune Climb.

Volunteers install the first bench in 2015 in Glen Haven.

Leonard Marszalek worked with TART Trails and Park staff to develop a design for benches that would be sturdy and require little maintenance and to get the locations approved by the Park. Leonard and Ken Rosiek, one of our Heritage Trail Ambassador volunteers, designed and built a prototype in 2015.  A small crew of volunteers installed that first bench in Glen Haven.

Because Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes have been working on improving accessibility on Park trails and beaches, we realized that we needed to install accessible pads around the benches, so someone in a wheelchair could pull in and park sitting next to a companion on the bench. So that is why the benches seem to be off-center on the pads. We needed to provide a space for a wheelchair to pull along beside the bench.

During 2017, we made some minor changes to the bench design and Ken built us more benches, which we contracted with AJ’s Excavation to install in 2017. That brought our total up to 6 benches.

YouthWork Crew installs benches

This year, we received a grant from Northwest Michigan Health to install an additional 8 benches. That completes our plan. All approved bench locations now have a bench! Ken Rosiek built the benches and YouthWork, a program of Traverse City Child and Family Services installed the benches and accessible pads this spring.

You will notice that each bench has the name of a native wildflower engraved on the top board. This naming convention allows us to identify specific benches (e.g. the Trillium Bench).

Ken Rosiek built all 14 trail benches.

People who want to donate to support the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail can make a donation to the trail and sponsor one of these benches. Donations of over $1,000 are recognized on a plaque in the Park Visitor Center in Empire.  Learn more.

Track Chair Reservations OPEN

Do you long to get back into nature and hike a trail that is just too steep or sandy? Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes is offering FREE use of a Track Chair for those with mobility limitations. This is the first program of its kind in a National Park! 

We are getting more and more requests for accessible options for park visitors to be able to enjoy the beauty and natural settings of our beaches and trails. The Track Chair offers the opportunity for the whole family to enjoy the Park together. 

In the first year of the program operation, the Track Chair will be available for use on the Bay View trail about 3 miles north of Glen Arbor. A volunteer will train the visitor in the use of the Track Chair and will accompany the group on the trail.

The Track Chair will also be available at some Park events throughout the summer.

For more information or to make a reservation, click here.

BARK Rangers and Piping Plover

Unleashed dogs running the beaches of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are one of the biggest threats to the endangered piping plover.

But other dogs and their human companions who volunteer as BARK Rangers can be the tiny bird’s best friends.

Piping Plover and chick

Piping plovers are classified as an endangered species in the Great Lakes region where they nest and raise their young on open beaches. Loss of habitat and nest disturbance are primary factors.

Piping plovers build shallow nests in the sand and line them with pebbles or broken shells. The birds are very sensitive to humans in the area and abandon nests if they feel threatened. Dogs running free on a beach destroy nests and often harass or kill piping plovers.

That’s one of the reasons park rules require all dogs to be on a leash, and ban dogs from certain beaches known to be piping plover nesting sites.

But not every visitor knows the rules.

BARK Ranger on Patrol

As part of the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes volunteer program, dog owners and their pets regularly walk the beaches to help educate visitors about the rules. They remind people a leash is required, and explain which areas allow dogs and which are off-limits. BARK Rangers can be identified by their NPS volunteer shirts or vests and BARK vests or kerchiefs on their dogs.

The idea behind the BARK Ranger program is that a conversation between one dog owner and another is often a positive and effective way to educate visitors and help everyone enjoy the park. BARK Rangers also thank people they see abiding by the rules, and serve as park ambassadors to answer questions.




Bark Ranger Ginger Langdon with Mr. Darcy and Moxie talking with a Park visitor.

BARK Rangers also walk our dog-friendly trails as well. Did you know that Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the few national parks that allows dogs on beaches and trails? Our BARK Rangers help educate park visitors about pet rules, so we can keep this privilege. Besides harming the nesting success of the piping plover, unleashed dogs can also chase wildlife resulting in harm to the wildlife and possibly to the dog. 

Read more

Learn more about volunteer jobs at Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes – including the BARK Ranger volunteer.

Become a BARK Ranger volunteer: fill out our Volunteer Registration Form.

Read the rules regarding pets in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

For more information about the endangered piping plover.

Call for Volunteers to Accompany Track Chair Participants

UPDATE: If you would like to become a track chair volunteer, please go here to sign up as a track chair volunteer and contact Kathy Cole to learn more: 


In the past, the closest Jeanne Esch got to the beach was the parking lot.

As Chair of the Accessibility Committee for Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, Jeanne has had a long-time love of our sandy beaches surrounded by towering dunes. Unfortunately, as a wheelchair user, access to some of her favorite areas was a challenge.

All that changed last summer, when Jeanne got the opportunity to ‘test drive’ a track chair and the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes successfully raised the needed funds for a Track Chair Program in the park – the first of its kind in a National Park!

Now Jeanne can get closer than ever to her beloved shoreline. “On a personal level, as a chair user – having that access on the beach to be able to go out to the shoreline to sit and enjoy the water instead of [being] out in the parking lot watching from afar has been huge,” said Esch. “I can’t stop smiling, I’m so excited about [this new program].”

What is a Track Chair?

A track chair is a personal mobility system. A power wheelchair with tracks rather than wheels, that allows the user to go through sand, climb steeper hills, and move through other surfaces typically found on a trail. It allows users to experience areas of Sleeping Bear Dunes not otherwise accessible to an individual with mobility challenges.

Here’s How the Track Chair Program Works and How You can Participate!

Imagine accompanying someone with mobility challenges as they ‘hike’ a trail or cruise the beach. Being a Track Chair Program volunteer will surely be an incredibly rewarding experience. Read on to learn how you can participate.

The track chair will be available at no charge to park visitors. There will be a reservation system online at beginning in the Spring of 2019. When the chair is reserved, volunteers will be notified. You may sign up to volunteer on specific days of the week – on a weekly basis or monthly basis.

What are Track Chair Program Volunteers’ Responsibilities?

  1. The track chair will be available on a reservation basis.
  2. When a reservation is received, the volunteer will be contacted to meet the person who will be using the track chair and responsible for familiarizing them with the use of the chair.
  3. The volunteer will accompany the track chair user and his/her party on the hike. The current designated track chair trail is the Bay View Trail.
  4. Following the hike, you will check in the track chair and return it to it’s designated location.

How to Become a Track Chair Program Volunteer

  1. To become a volunteer, indicate your interest by filling out our Volunteer Registration form and selecting “Accessibility Volunteer” in the list of volunteer jobs.
  2. You will be contacted and required to be trained in the use of the track chair. This includes:
    a. Removing the track chair from the trailer.
    b. How to operate the track chair and adjust the safety and comfort features.
    c. Experience driving the track chair.
    d. Checking for obvious damage to track chair before checking it out and when checking it in after use.
  3. Loading the track chair from the trailer and charging it.
  4. How to train the track chair user in the use of the chair.

All Track Chair Program Volunteers are required to be trained!

Time Commitment

Our new trailer that transports the track chair.

Volunteers may choose days, time of day, they are available to volunteer. The volunteers will be on a “on call” system. If there is a request for use of the track chair during the time you have chosen to volunteer, you will be contacted.

Volunteers should plan on 4 hours per volunteer session. This allows for preparing the track chair, familiarizing the track chair user, hiking with the track chair user, checking the track chair upon return, returning it to the trailer.

Other Information

Volunteers must be able to hike the Bay View Trail.

Volunteers will NOT lift or position the track chair user.

Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes plans to launch the Track Chair Program this spring. If you’re interested in this great volunteer opportunity, please fill out the Volunteer Registration form and select “Accessibility Volunteer” in the list of volunteer jobs or contact us at

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