Plovers Returning

Nature never closes, and migrations of animals and birds are one of the most remarkable things in Nature. Here on the sandy shores of the Great Lakes, we see a special little bird called the Piping Plover return every year to nest and raise their young.

Plovers were classified an endangered species in 1985 when only 12 couples were spotted in the Great Lakes region. The birds are very sensitive to humans and dogs in the area which they nest and abandon nests if they feel threatened. Through conservation and protection by park staff, volunteers, and biologists, the Plover population reached a high of 41 pairs, half of them nested on North Manitu Island.

This season will be different. This year, volunteers will not be able to be on the beaches to spot and protect plover nests until the Stay at Home Ordinance is lifted and we can safely work with park staff. 

We ask our community to take extra care when visiting the shoreline by doing the following in April: 
– If you bring your dog, they must remain on a leash and within a close distance to you. 
– Please stay away from rocky areas on the beach and bluffs as this is where the Plovers build shallow nests in the sand and line them with pebbles or broken shells.

Sharing the shorelines, protecting piping plovers at Sleeping Bear


Visiting the Park while Social Distancing

The trails and Park are OPEN. 

For those who live in the area around the Park, we would like to promote safe visitation on the trails and lakeshore. We know the trails and shorelines within the park are a great resource to stay active and healthy during these times and we would like to reiterate some helpful guidelines to keep the community safe.

Please respect the spirit of Gov. Witmer’s Executive Order on March 23, 2020, to Stay Home, Stay Safe:

“Michiganders may only leave their home or place of residence under very limited circumstances, and they must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when they do so.
Additionally, all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons outside a single household are temporarily prohibited. People may leave the house to engage in outdoor activities like walking, hiking, running, cycling, or any other recreational activity, consistent with remaining at least six feet from people from outside a person’s household

  • Above all, follow Social Distancing Protocols as directed by the State of Michigan and the CDC.
    This includes proper trial etiquette: maintain a six-foot distance from others, avoid gatherings of people outside of those in your household, walk and ride on the right side of the trail and pass on the left. Please consider the entire trail system when visiting, hiking on less-populated trails.

  • Plan ahead when visiting. This time of year the weather on the lakeshore can change quickly. Please bring adequate layers and outdoor apparel. Trails are still icy and snow-covered in locations where there is heavy tree cover. We advise wearing hiking boots and even bringing hiking poles when visiting some of the back-country trails. Please also be advised that the high water level has made some of the shoreline dangerous due to bluff erosion.

  • Limited National Park Staff will be within the Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore including Law Enforcement and facilities staff. Do not hike down the following hazardous dunes/bluffs: Empire Bluff, The Dune Overlook at the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, and Pyramid Point. Steep slopes present an increased risk for landslides, and sheer drops may be encountered near the bottom of the slopes as the lake is very high and has eroded the bluffs.
    Rescue services may be unavailable and will take away resources from the health care system.

  • All Park toilets have been closed to help preserve PPE resources that Park Staff would need to wear while cleaning them. GO before you Go!

  • Leave No Trace: this means please take the snacks, food packaging, and anything else you brought with you when you leave the Park. Also, leave what you find. This includes any flora, fauna, stones, and sand as it is illegal to remove any natural resource from inside the National Park.

  • The Phillip A. Hart Visitor Center and park campgrounds will remain closed until further notice. You can find more from the Park on the Current Conditions page of their website.

  • Stay at home if you feel sick and wash your hands often.
    (BYO-hand sanitizer when visiting the Park).  


From the National Park Service: So that we may best serve the American public and maintain parks as a resource and refuge during this difficult time, parks with open space areas will remain available to the public where it is safe. 


Other Resources for experiencing the great outdoors during this time: 

Hiking Responsibly: FAQ for Covid-19

COVID-19 Update

Dear Friends, 
During this difficult time as the US and world works to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Friends of Sleeping Bear want to do whatever we can to support the efforts advised by the CDC, state, and national government agencies. 
As our mission is to “Protect resources and heighten visitor experiences in partnership with the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.”, we want to ensure the safety of our members, supporters, and the community. 

The Friends is an all-volunteer organization and we often accomplish administration tasks remotely. Meetings, training sessions, and other group gatherings are being suspended and we will move forward with online meetings and audioconferences so that essential business can continue.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is open and maintaining operations based on information from the CDC, state governments, and local health authorities. Check out the National Park Service website for the most up-to-date information on your national parks.
UPDATE: As of March 16, the Park’s Philip A. Hart Visitor Center has been closed to the public.
Follow these links below to download Sleeping Bear Dunes mobile app for both Apple and Android.
Our participation in National Lakeshore events will be determined by the guidance of Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore management.
UPDATE: As of March 23, all non-essential Park staff will be working from home. For the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, this means that only Law Enforcement and select facilities staff. Please plan ahead and use extra caution as emergency services may be delayed and take away valuable resources from our local health system. 
ALL bathrooms and campgrounds will also be closed to ensure the safety of Park guests, employees, and volunteers. 
We understand that spending time outdoors is a great way to pass this time of uncertainty while keeping active and healthy. Therefore, we will continue to promote safe visitation to the park. If you plan to visit the lakeshore, be prepared to walk on trails that can still be icy and snow-covered in some areas. Be kind on the trails and pass each other using the recommended 6-foot social boundary.
An UPDATED guide to visiting the park can be found in our post here:…ocial-distancing/
If you see any safety concerns that may require immediate attention, please fill out the safety report on our website. 
 And please, e-mail any questions to
Stay healthy, 
Friends of Sleeping Bear Executive Committee 

March Movies – POSTPONED

March, 16th, 2020: Due to federal recommendations to not hold any events with more than 10 people, the Spring Beak Escape – National Park Movie Festival will be postponed until further notice. 

In a continuation of the Sleeping Bear 50th Anniversary activities, the Park will be hosting a “Spring Break Escape ~ National Parks Film Festival” at the Park Visitor Center during March. These films will highlight other National Parks, come for the entire time or pop in when you can. Seating is limited to 100 people at a time due to the size of the theater in the Visitor Center.

Come enjoy some movies highlighting other great Nations Parks across the U.S., including well-known Grand Canyon, scorching Death Valley, sunny Gulf Island, remote Glacier Bay, and Sleeping Bear Dunes’ newest BFF, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, who is also celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. The National Lakeshore has 14 fascinating park films to share and is planning at least one special event each month in 2020.
Some healthy snacks will be provided and Friends Volunteers will be on-site to answer questions about some of our programs. 

Time: 12:30 to 3:30
Location: the Phillip A. Heart Visitors Center, Empire MI
Dates:  Will update upon further notification. 

Get Out and Hike Day – POSTPONED

Get Out and Hike Day was previously scheduled for Saturday, April 25th. We are now working on adapting this event to be moved to another date to be announced as soon as the park and volunteers can continue normal activity. 

We would like to celebrate Earth Day by helping the park understand spring needs for clean-up and repairs on the beaches and trails around the Sleeping Bear Lakeshore.
There are 12 trails that need to be walked around the park as well as understanding any damage to beach access points because of the high water we have experienced this winter. 

This is an all-ages event and a great way to learn more about how the Friends partner with the National Park. We will need about 30 volunteers for the day and tasks can be accomplished in groups. 
No need to RSVP ahead of time, please come to the Park Visitor Center in Empire for location assignment between 8:30-10 am. 

Date: TBD 
Location: Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore
Time: TBD
Participants should wear sturdy shoes and dress according to the weather forecasted.  Handouts, pens/pencils, and instructions on how to report damage will be provided.

For questions or more information, please feel free to contact our Adopt-a-Trail Coordinator: Tracy Barrilleaux, or at: 760-505-6743

High Water Impact

As we have witnessed for the past months, Lake Michigan has had higher than usual water levels which has caused erosion problems at some of the stairs going down to the Lake (Lane Rd, No-Name Rd, Sunset Shores). In each case, the sand has been washed away at the bottom of the stairs. When built, the bottom step was at ground level. Now they are all about 3 feet above ground (or water) level. One (No Pets) signpost at CR-669 has almost washed away.
The Park will schedule time in the spring to dis-assemble these stairs and replace them where appropriate. The Friends will provide funding and volunteers to work with them to do the repairs. Stay Tuned for updates to dates to which the park may require help. 
Please be aware when visiting that the beach is both difficult to get to in some places as well as the ground is very icy. Please be advised that the trails and beaches will continue to be slippery with on and off snowmelt. Take additional precautions by using trekking poles and crampons or other ice-grabbing additions to shoes. 

Volunteer Position Openings

We are seeking a few special Friends with specific talents and good organizational skills who want to join our team of dedicated, high-functioning, and enthusiastic leaders.

Our 600+ member organization helps to ensure that more than 1.5 million visitors to the National Lakeshore each year have a great experience and learn how to protect this precious resource.

Descriptions for these roles are at Friends Job Descriptions

The Grants Writer identifies possible sources of grants that match Friends project needs, writes grant applications, and follows-up with granting sources as required.

The Donor Development Manager identifies potential donors with substantial financial capability, who may be interested in supporting the Friends generally or a specific project.

The Fund Development Director is responsible for developing and implementing fundraising programs to assure sufficient financial support for Friends operations.

If you are interested in any of the following positions, please email Bill Stott, state the position you are applying for, please include your resume or brief statement of relevant experience.

The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, all-volunteer organization. 


There is still time to order the book for Christmas

The countdown to the holidays is on, and if you are still looking for the perfect gift for someone on your list, we may have it, The Life of the Sleeping Bear!



Purchase by December 20th for expedited shipping before Christmas


A great gift for the person who is new to Sleeping Bear:

“The book is a fine memento for your visit to the National Lakeshore and makes a better guide for planning a visit. You will arrive with a better appreciation for “The Most Beautiful Place in America” and it will single-out not-to-be-missed points of interest and spots of breathtaking beauty.”

                                                                                  – Tom Powers, Michigan in Books Review

A great gift for the person who has known Sleeping Bear for years:

“I have been living in the grasp of the Sleeping Bear dunes all my life, and I didn’t know half the information packed in this guidebook. Did I find this book valuable? Yes. Engrossing? Yes. Beautiful? Yes. Full of history and fact? Yes!”

– Bob Sutherland, President, Cherry Republic

A great gift for the person with a home in Sleeping Bear:

“This is a book to enjoy reading by the fireplace, leaving out on the coffee table for guests, or using as a source for unforgettable bedtime stories.”

-Colleen Wares, Newstalk 580, WCTM

A great gift for the student of the Sleeping Bear:

“The latest book, The Life of the Sleeping Bear, is by far the most complete on the subject. It locates and explains the unique features of the dunes and places them in the context of their rich social, cultural, environmental, ecological, geologic, and recreational history. No book has attempted this broad range and synopses of information, and it stands on the shoulders of all that have preceded it.”

-Barbara Siepker, Leelanau County historian, author, and publisher

And a great gift for the person just looking for a good read:

“I love this book. It has something for everyone, the historian, the environmentalist, the traveler, the photographer, and perhaps most of all, the person who has lived or visited here almost forever and never realized the true stories of The Life of the Sleeping Bear.”

-Barbara Reed, Owner, The Bookstore, Frankfort, Michigan

Order now at

New Vice-chair for the Friends

Congratulations to Ross McAninch, our new Vice-Chair


Beginning as a SBHT Ambassador, soon the extended family found themselves volunteering time and funds to support the trail’s additional segments.  In 2013, Ross took the Trail Crew “Boss” position. He was then appointed to the Board in 2014 and took on an additional task of managing the design and implementation of the SBHT Imap (interactive map) project and became actively involved as the Friends IT Coordinator.

Ross has been very dedicated to the Friends efforts to enhance the visitor experience at the Lakeshore and believes the best way to support these efforts is to be involved at multiple levels of the organization. The role of the Vice-Chair is to be a  backup for the Chair in his/her absence or to help the Chair upon request and training to be the next Board Chairman. Ross takes on this position as Jeff Brown, our previous co-chair, moved into the position of Chair of the Board after Kerry Kelly.


To learn more about our Board of Directors, check out all of their bios on the Board Members page. 

Annual Report 2019

This Year We Are Celebrating 25 Years of Support


Download our 2019 Annual Report

In 2019, The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes provided over 13,500 volunteer hours to support a wide variety of projects at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The largest projects in 2019 were the inception of the Track Chair Program and the completion of the Kettles Trail.

The Kettles Trail is officially complete and was commemorated by a Grand Opening Ceremony in late October which was attended by over 150 people. Attendees had the opportunity to see the trail with a guided hike by volunteers who helped build the trail. Our Track Chair Program is the first of its kind in a national park. We helped 70 visitors experience the Bay View Trail who otherwise would not be able to access due to the sandy and uneven trail. 

This year, The Friends raised over $122, 500 for programs to maintain the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail all year long, facilitate the completion of the Kettles Trail, support school snowshoe hikes in the park, produce and update trail maps in the park, provide preventative search and rescue efforts, as well as purchase an additional Track Chair for the 2nd year of the program. 

In November, The Friends also released a book written and published by volunteers, The Life of the Sleeping Bear which blends art, history, and science to provide a colorful tour of this precious geological and environmental area. With every purchase of our book, all proceeds come directly back to The Friends to support continuing programs.  

 For those who want more details about all of the projects we supported in 2019, click here.


Please consider making a donation for one of these projects or our General Fund.

Accomplishments by the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes in 2019.

If you are not already a member, please consider joining.
All you have to do is make a donation or sign up as a volunteer!

What’s in the Plan for 2020?

Not only are we celebrating 25 years of service in partnership with the National Park, but the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore will also be celebrating its 50th year in existence in the year 2020. Keep an eye out for special events from us and the park all year long to commemorate the history and impact the National Park has made to protect the natural wonder of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. 

We will continue to be busy in 2020 with our ongoing volunteer programs, but there will also be several big projects that we will need your help with.

  • Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail – Annual Operations & Maintenance plus beginning work on an extension of the trail from Bohemian Road (CR669) to Good Harbor Trail (CR-651)
    creating 5 more miles of paved access.
  • Kettles Trail – We will continue work and maintenance on the new trail including adding an observation deck at the bog, benches, as well as additional interpretive and directional signage. 
  • Proposed Mountian Bike Trail – Assessment and planning for a proposed mountain bike trail will begin in the spring of 2020. 
  • Continued accessibility improvements to trails and beach access points. 

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