Come visit us as the Traverse City Holiday Book Festival

The Life of the Sleeping Bear will be sold at the Traverse City Holiday Book Festival, and visit with Santa while you shop at the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes booth! This book will make a great holiday gift for anyone who enjoys spending time around the Sleeping Bear Dunes. 


Event: Traverse City Holiday Book Festival
Location: The Village at Grand Traverse Commons
Date: Sunday, December 15 
Time: 12-4 pm

To learn more about the book, visit:


Winter grooming of the Heritage Trail to start this week

With unprecedented snow received over the last 36 hours, we will be able to properly groom the SBHT by the end of this week for cross country skiing, ski skates, and hikers alike. 

As a reminder, general etiquette for any season on the trial is to stay to the right unless you are passing another trail-goer. 
Fat Tire Bikes are allowed on the trail, but please be courteous to skiers and walkers, yield to them and be aware of the tracks. It is easier for skiers to follow the treads already in the snow. Grooming is done when there is a significant amount of snowfall and reports will be updated at the end.

For more information and updates to the snow grooming, visit: ‎

To be added to our SBHT Snow Conditions report via e-mail, please request to be added by e-mailing

Winter is Here at Sleeping Bear Dunes

We have had early lake effect snow at the Sleeping Bear Lakeshore and the Pierce Stocking Drive is now closed for the season. The road is able to be reached via cross country skiing, snowshoe, or hiking but will remain closed to motor vehicles until spring 2020. 

With a little more snow, the Friends will begin grooming trails around the park, including the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail as early as the weekend of November 16th, 2019, depending on the continued snowfall. 

To sign up for our trail grooming reports, email: with the headline “Request for Winter Trail Reports” and you will be put on our list!

Stay Tuned for our updated Winter Trail Page in the next week. 

Sharing the shorelines, protecting piping plovers at Sleeping Bear

Blog by: Susan Poirier-Sorg, environmental writer 

It was 1993 when two piping plover pairs were sighted. Both were on North Manitou Island, one pair at Dimmick’s Point and another at Donner’s Point. Two years later, the first pair arrived on the mainland at Platte Point. 

Steve Yancho, retired Chief of Natural Resources at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore remembers hauling in equipment to North Manitou in 1988-1990 for predation control to protect the plover. “Funding was always a challenge. We never knew from year-to-year where the funds would come from, and we always had to search for funding sources. I was proud of keeping the plover program going.”

The population had dropped to a dangerous low of twelve pairs by 1985 when it was federally listed as an endangered species. 

Piping Plover and chick

By 2017, the park’s plover population grew to the highest in the Great Lakes region according to Erica Adams, field lead for the program. “Forty-one pairs nested in the park that year, with about one-half of the pairs on North Manitou Island.” Dimmick’s Point on North Manitou is closed to the public every year from April through August to reduce human contact with the nesting plovers.

There were eight plover nesting zones in 2019—five on the mainland, two on North Manitou and one on South Manitou. Each year the nest sites are roped-off with signage, and all nests are protected from predators with ‘exclosures’ that resemble a wire cage with netting. 

The Great Lakes piping plover is a co-parenting species with one parent always incubating its ground nest in fragile, open beach habitat. Plovers have faced a loss of quality nesting area and increasing risks from predators—merlins, crows, gulls, raccoons—making it difficult to safely incubate, feed, and protect their chicks. 

Over the years the park has tested-out different styles and sizes of exclosures to protect the nests while allowing the parent plovers to easily enter and exit when incubating. A mid-sized wire exclosure with netting covering the top is used to protect all plover nests on both the mainland and North and South Manitou Islands.

Alice VanZoeren, researcher with the University of Minnesota who has worked on the plover program since 2004, explains: “Success with the exclosures brought the plovers’ hatch rate from a thirty percent hatch rate to a ninety percent hatch rate. It’s the most effective exclosure, and it’s very rare for a nesting pair to reject it.”

“Piping plover are very tied to sites where they successfully nested before, and not necessarily to the site where they were hatched. They’ll often return five to seven years to the successful nesting site,” said VanZoeren, who does almost all of the adult plover banding for Sleeping Bear’s population.

Rising waters are now an emerging threat, limiting viable habitat. The loss of shoreline from rising water levels in Lake Michigan presented a challenge in the 2019 nesting season. “High water levels push piping plovers into smaller levels of habitat, and this raises the risk of predators because it means the plovers will be nesting closer to the tree line giving predators an advantage,” explained VanZoeren. “And nest wash-outs are a threat.” 

Thirty-two pairs nested in the summer of 2019, down from the high point of forty-one pairs in 2017. But the higher water levels can be cyclical and reverse once again, and receding waters can reveal enhanced habitat for the plover.

Visitors ask the plover beach monitors how the shorebirds are doing and might, from a safe distance, catch a glimpse of one scurrying across the beach. This is a testimony to the efforts over the past twenty-five years and longer—the work and dedication of many people, partners, and organizations with integral roles in the continuing growth and survival of this iconic species. 

The Friends of Sleeping Bear have provided tents and sleeping bags for program staff who spend long stretches of days and nights conducting research and monitoring nests during spring and summer plover nesting season.

Historically, piping plovers had thrived in their nesting grounds on the Great Lakes shorelines which was once home to about 800 nesting pairs. For more information on the piping plover protection program and how you can help:

Susan Poirier-Sorg is a freelance environmental writer and advocate for Michigan’s wildlife. You can follow her blog at 


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.

The Very Best Family Fun Activities at the National Lakeshore

First, I highly recommend doing the Scenic Drive and stopping at stop # 9 Lake Michigan Overlook. Don’t plan to go down to the Lake Michigan beach from there unless you are prepared for the extremely strenuous hike back up the bluff. That means wearing shoes, sunscreen, lots of water and snacks. It doesn’t look that hard when you look at it from the top – but believe me, it looks a lot harder when you are 1/4 the way back up!

One of the best ways for the kids and young adults to learn about the park is to get a Junior Ranger book and complete the activities in that. When done, they can get a Jr. Ranger badge. You can pick these up at the Visitor Center in Empire or at the campground office at Platte River Campground.

Also, you will want to go to the Dune Climb. Tons of great sandy fun, hikes and areas to play and explore. Once again make sure to wear sunscreen and stay well hydrated and be ready to get sandy.

To learn about the history of this area, logging, and Great Lakes shipping, go to the historic village in Glen Haven. There are several museums, a working blacksmith shop (great fun to watch the blacksmith make things out of red-hot metal), and the Lake Michigan beach is right there! You will definitely want to drive from Glen Haven to the Maritime Museum – just 1/2 mile west of Glen Haven. At 3:00 PM every day, they do a reenactment of the life-saving service rescue.

Thursday afternoon – either at the Maritime Museum or Glen Haven beach, they shoot off the Lyle Gun, which is a cannon that takes a rope from shore to a stranded ship. Very cool!


Recommendations for Hiking:

Here is a link to information about our hiking trails.

I highly recommend Empire Bluff trail for a hike through the woods to a great view of Lake Michigan. Also, recommend Sleeping Bear Point trail for an experience of hiking through sand dunes to the beach and some great views of Lake Michigan – not too strenuous.

I DO NOT recommend trying to hike to Lake Michigan from the Dune Climb unless you are really prepared with lots of water, snacks, good hiking shoes, sunscreen, etc. This is a very strenuous hike and will take you at least 2 hours round trip.


Here is a link to information about our beaches:

River Adventures:

Both the Lower Platte River and the Crystal River offer a great opportunity to kayak, canoe, stand-up-paddleboard, and more! Complete equipment rentals and shuttling are available from Friends Business Supporters Riverside Canoe Trips on the Platte River and Crystal River Outfitters on, you guessed it, the Crystal River.

You can also stay connected with up to date events and happenings by following Friends of Sleeping Bear and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Faceboook. 

All You Need to Know for Morels Hunting in the National Lakeshore

Are you enjoying the first glorious days of spring searching for those golden hidden treasures we call Morel mushrooms? Julie Christian, Chief of Natural Resources at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore reminds that foraging for edible mushrooms is permitted in 2019 with following limitations:
  • Gathering must be by hand
  • No more than one gallon may be gathered
  • Must be for personal use or consumption  (non-commercial use only)
  • The edible portion is the vegetative (fruiting, fleshy) part of the plant, and collection of other parts of the plant can kill or negatively impact the plant.

A mushroom is specifically defined as “the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus.” The intent of allowing mushroom collection is that the collection of these fruiting bodies is akin to the collection of fruit from a tree or shrub.
 The collection of the vegetative body (mycelium) or dead sterile portions that form from a fruiting body of a mushroom is prohibited.   (source:  This link is the Park Superintendent’s Compendium which sets what and how much can be collected, which can change between years. It’s also a good resource for Park concerns and reasoning for rules regarding camping, gliding, boating, biking, hunting, drone use and permits, etc.)
Other things to keep in mind include:

  • Clean footwear and gear before and after excursion to reduce spread of invasive species. 
  • Learn how to identify target species and those that may be similar as look-a-likes may be poisonous. Do not consume unless certain of the identification. 
  • As ramps are also out at the same time as Morels, please note that collection of ramps or wild leeks is NOT permitted
Happy hunting!

10 Signs Spring Has Sprung

1. Spring Peepers – Wetlands thaw and release choruses of spring peepers, soon joined by red-winged blackbirds trilling from budding bushes.
2. Ruffed Grouse sounds – Male ruffed grouse stand atop old logs and drum their wings to establish territory and attract a mate. Hear the sound: 

3. Pussy willows – produce their furry catkins, one of the first signs of spring in the bare forest.

4. Smell of Spring – Along a hiking path, the rich scent of warming soil and leaf cover on the forest floor, often next to lingering snow banks sheltered in pockets of northern exposure.

5. Fawns – white tailed deer babies or fawns are odorless when they are born so predators can’t detect where they are.  The mother will leave the fawn for a few days right after birth as not to rub any of her scent off on the fawn while it gains strength.

6. Sandhill cranes – return to forage in open fields or soar overheard on outstretched wings with their long legs trailing behind. Their distinct guttural calls carry a long way in the spring air. 

7. Ducks on the lake – Flotillas of migrating ducks bob along the shore in Lake Michigan. The Sleeping Bear Dunes shoreline is a major migratory route and favorite of bird watchers. 

8. Trillium – This beautiful flower blooms and covers the forest floor with a blanket of white before the trees leaf out above.

9. Loons return to favorite inland lake nesting spots soon after ice out.

10. Cyclists – Lingering sections of packed snow and ice from a season of skiing on the Heritage Trail finally soften and give way to cyclists.

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.

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