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.

Fourth-grader Uses Track Chair to Join Classmates on Snowshoe Hike

“When I heard one of the students could not attend the snowshoe field trip because he uses a wheelchair, it got me thinking,” described Friends Chairman Kerry Kelly. “Maybe he could use our new Track Chair and go on the snowshoe hike with his classmates?”

Fourth Graders from Cherry Hill Elementary in Traverse City snowshoe through deep snow.

For the past 4 years, the Friends has sponsored a winter school snowshoe hike experience for elementary school kids in Northern Michigan. This winter, despite the government shutdown, over 20 schools and about 1,100 students will participate in the Sleeping Bear Dunes Snowshoe Hike Program. The students learn about winter ecology and how to put on snowshoes and hike through a snow-covered forest. It’s great fun for the whole class!

That is, unless you need to use a wheelchair to get around, then this is one field trip when you may have to stay home and miss out on the learning and the fun.

Fortunately, this is no longer the case…

Last year, the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes purchased a Track Chair to make available to Park visitors with limited mobility, so they can get out on some of our more rugged hiking trails.

So could the new Track Chair be the solution?

“We wondered if the Track Chair would work in snow and if the young student (4th grade) would be able to control it,” explained Kerry Kelly. “We had never tried it in snow before and our reservation system hasn’t been launched yet.”

“After discussions with the teacher and parents, we decided we should give it a try. When the bus showed up, the teacher brought David over to our Track Chair. We got him in the driver’s seat and after just a few seconds of training, he was off down the trail with his classmates.”

“We took a class picture before the hike,” beamed Kelly, “And David wheeled right in the middle of the group with chants of “David! David! David!” from his classmates.”

David in the Track Chair with his teacher and class during the Snowshoe Event.

“David was able to be on his own, like all of the other kids, for the entire hour plus long snowshoe hike! When it was time to get back on the bus, we thought David might want to drive the Track Chair home!”

Accessibility and finding ways for everyone to be included in Park activities is one of missions of the Friends. We support the Park on several projects to make our beaches and trails more accessible for everyone. If you’d like to make a much-needed financial donation to help keep programs like this available in your National Lakeshore, please go here to learn more.

Learn more about the Track Chair program and our other Accessibility projects

Kids Raise Funds for National Lakeshore & Meet Park Superintendent

Last year, Steiner sisters Alyssa (10) and Kylie (7) raised over $600 for victims of the hurricanes in Puerto Rico. So when they showed interest in having another fundraiser this year, the only question was who would they support?

“The girls were so surprised with the amount of money they were able to collect last year and it was such a good experience for them, I was thrilled they wanted to do it again,” exclaimed their mother Shannon. “Their love of nature and enjoyment of the National Lakeshore’s beaches, trails, and museums drove them to want to do more to support their National Park, so they decided to raise money for the Sleeping Bear Dunes.”

Fundraising for Sleeping Bear Dunes at Horizon Books in December, 2018

The fundraiser was held on the sidewalk in front of Horizon Books on December 16, 2018. The Steiner sisters and five of their friends (Sophia and Gianna Nowak, Alexandra Maxon, Lola Russell, and Molly O’Hearn) made things to give donors, shared maps of the park and of the new Kettles Trail that is being built now. They raised $330.19!

Kylie and Alyssa present their donation to Scott Tucker, Park Superintendent

Today, Alyssa and Kylie and their family made the trip to Empire to present their donation to Scott Tucker, Superintendent of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Their donation will be used to design and install a new interpretive sign at the new Kettles Trail. Scott presented Allysa and Kylie with Superintendent’s coin and Kerry Kelly presented them with a Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes pin. They and their families were treated to a viewing of an early draft of the new Visitor Center video that is being created now.

Their family often walks the Lake Michigan beaches in the National Lakeshore picking up litter, so they also joined the Adopt-A-Beach volunteer program!

This kind of stewardship is really inspiring!

Communications Director Named

Laura Ann Johnson has been named Communications Director for Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes. She will be responsible for all media and public relations for the organization. Laura Ann is also a member of the Board of Directors. She will build a communications team that will use a variety of media to share our mission, project goals and activities with our supporters and volunteers as well as the general public. In her role, she will work closely with Jim Gribble, our Development Director and all of our project managers to keep our supporters informed.

“As our organization has grown, our Board of Directors has recognized the need for a communications strategy and implementation team that can use a mix of media and news outlets to share the stories of the work we do in support of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore” explained Kerry Kelly, Friends Chairman. “Laura Ann brings great experience and enthusiasm as well as a network of talented people, and I’m excited about the positive impact this will have on our organization.”

Laura Ann grew up outside of Chicago and spent 20 summers on the shores of Lake Michigan attending Camp Kohahna at Pyramid Point. Camp is where she gained a true love of nature and the outdoors.  After graduating from DePauw University in Indiana, Laura Ann pursued her Educational Studies degree by interning at Yellowstone National Park and then became the Director of the Leelanau Outdoor Center for over 5 years. There she continued to teach kids and adults of all ages the magic of Leelanau County and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore through character education and hands on science. Currently Laura Ann works for Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, and she and her husband Tom live on ten acres in Maple City with their dog, Pepper, and son, Abner. Laura Ann loves to garden and do anything outside with her family. Tom and Laura Ann also enjoy doing triathlons together in their free time.

We will be looking for volunteers to join our Communications team, so if you would like to help, please fill out our Volunteer Registration form and indicate the areas you are interested in. Our Volunteer Coordinator will get in touch with you. If you have questions, contact us or Laura Ann directly

Snowshoe & Chili — Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes Fundraiser

Thanks Cherry Public House and Cherry Republic! We can’t wait to snowshoe and enjoy some chili with you all.

Many of you have been asking how you can help, this is a great way. Hope you can join us.

** Don’t have snowshoes?
You can rent them at Coastal, 6324 W. Western Ave, Glen Arbor.

government shutdown fundraiser national parks

Government Shutdown Impacts Sleeping Bear Dunes

During the shutdown of the federal government due to the lapse of appropriations, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures.

The visitor center will be closed and there will be no NPS-provided visitor services at the National Lakeshore, including restrooms, trash collection, or facilities maintenance. Services at the Platte River Campground will be discontinued as well, including snow plowing, custodial, bathrooms, showers, electricity, check-in/check-out, and reservations. Trails will remain accessible to visitors, but trailhead parking lots will not be plowed and emergency and rescue services will be limited.

During the federal government shutdown, NPS social media and websites will not be monitored or updated and so may not reflect current conditions. All park programs will be canceled until operations resume, including the guided snowshoe hikes that had been scheduled during Christmas week and early January.

Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes will continue to groom and maintain the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail through the shutdown. For information on the Heritage Trail, watch the Heritage Trail Winter Page on our web site.

For updates on the shutdown, please visit

Friends Annual Report – 2018

This year we provided about $114,000 in support of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Our 618 members also provided over 11,000 volunteer hours. As an all-volunteer organization, we have very low overhead (only 4%). Any donation we receive for a specific project goes 100% to supporting that project. If you are not already a member, consider joining. All you have to do is make a donation or sign up as a volunteer!

Fund Development Director Named

Jim Gribble, Fund Development Director

Jim Gribble has been named Fund Development Director for Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Jim will be responsible for the development and implementation of all fundraising efforts for the organization.

Gribble brings decades of marketing experience and business acumen to the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes and this newly formed role. “We have long recognized the need for an individual to take a leadership role for our fundraising efforts,” explained Kerry Kelly, the Friends Chair. “We simply could not exist and achieve our ongoing mission without the financial support we receive through grants and donations from individuals and businesses, and I look forward to Jim establishing a cohesive and effective fundraising strategy across our many initiatives and programs.”

In his role as Fund Development Director, Gribble will work with the Board of Directors and Program Coordinators to develop and implement fundraising programs to assure sufficient financial support for operations and development programs.

During the first part of his professional career, Gribble gained a wealth of experience from running profit centers at large direct marketing organizations. He went on to run a marketing services agency for many years. Currently, he provides marketing, business planning, and fundraising services to organizations and businesses in Northern Michigan through

On the personal side, Jim Gribble is a new Michigander, having recently moved from Maryland to his home on the Platte River adjacent to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. “After vacationing here a few years ago, I was amazed by the natural beauty of the area. My sister and her husband bought a place in Honor last year and with my daughter away at school, I decided to live out my dream of living in nature. After seeing and experiencing firsthand the amazing work the Friends do with the Heritage Trail and learning more about the many other projects, both in place and planned for the future, I was excited about the possibility of getting involved. I very much look forward to contributing to the Friends mission.”

We will be looking for people to join our Fund Development and Marketing team, so if you are interested in helping, please contact Jim at or call 231-227-1164.

Kettles Trail Construction

The new Kettles Trail, located in the Bow Lakes region of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is under construction. This trail will be approximately 3.5 miles long with the first segment being universally accessible from the parking lot to an overlook. The trail then goes through a hilly meadow and into a forested glacial moraine with steep kettle moraine and some kettle bogs.

Trail-building is being done by hand, and the project is being led by National Park Service staff and supported by two youth corps (YouthWork and SEEDS) as well as by volunteers from Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Funding for this project is provided by Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes and grants from the American Hiking Society and the Biederman Family Foundation.

As of September 1, 2018 the accessible segment of the trail is nearly complete, and the trail in the forest is approximately half done. Learn more.

Sign Up for our Newsletter

Click the button below to sign up for email newsletter, annual Newsletter Mailing, and/or email Ski Reports

Sign Up Today

Website Design and Development by Pro Web Marketing