National Lakeshore offers free, Ranger-led programs in May


From staff reports

Would you like to identify migrating birds, look for wildlife, learn about search and rescue in the dunes, or enjoy a bike ride? Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is the place to do all that and more. May is an excellent time to get outdoors and National Park Rangers are looking forward to leading you on some fun adventures this spring.

Every Saturday afternoon for the “Saturdays at the Lakeshore” programs at 1 p.m., a Park Ranger awaits you at the Visitor Center in Empire to introduce a topic and then lead a car caravan a short distance to where the walk will begin. Each week features a different topic and location. The programs last 1 to 1½ hours and are no longer than 1½ miles.

For all other scheduled programs, go directly to the designated location to meet the Ranger. When planning to attend any program, please be prepared for all kinds of weather and dress appropriately. Wear shoes that are good for walking or ensure that your bicycle is tuned up and tires full of air if you are going on a bike ride. Whatever the program, always take along water and sun protection.

May 7 – Saturdays at the Lakeshore- Predator-Prey Detectives
Use your detective skills to figure out the mystery animal. Your Park Ranger will lead you to the clues to be found throughout the hike.

May 8, 2:30 p.m. – FUN Wildlife Encounters
Families will learn how to react and what to do if they encounter the Park’s wildlife residents and possible transients. There will be games, prizes, and plenty of animal role-play. This event is open to all families and is part of the park’s outdoor activity club, Families United with Nature (FUN). Meet Park Rangers at the Platte River Campground Amphitheater, located off Lake Michigan Road, 10.3 miles south on M-22 from the Visitor Center in Empire.

May 14 – Saturdays at the Lakeshore- Returning Birds
Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day by joining a Park Ranger to welcome back several species of migratory birds and learn about their winter adventures in far-off lands. This is a great opportunity for beginning birders. Bring binoculars or borrow some from the Ranger.

May 21
– Saturdays at the Lakeshore- Search and Rescue (SAR)
Do you ever wonder what happens during a search and rescue? Come and learn about the process of a SAR on the dunes. Observe as the training takes place in the park and learn some tips to be safe in the Lakeshore. Meet at the Visitor Center in Empire for a short introduction about Search and Rescue and then car caravan to watch the SAR team in action.

May 28, 10 a.m. – Pedal the Lakeshore – Bike Tour/Beach Ride at Platte River Campground (3 miles, 1 hour)
Join a Park Ranger for an adventure to learn about invasive species and the threat that they pose to our resources. This bicycle tour consists of a short ride through the woods to the beach at the end of Peterson Road. Meet at the Platte River Campground Ranger Station parking lot.

May 28, 1 p.m. – Saturdays at the Lakeshore- Protecting Piping Plover Personalities
Our endangered plovers have so much personality for being such tiny birds. Learn how we are sometimes just like the plover and catch a glimpse of them at their nesting sites.

May 28, 3 p.m. – Heroes of the Storm
Experience turn-of-the-century shipwreck rescue techniques with this hands-on program designed for children of all ages. Audience participation is encouraged. Meet at the Maritime Museum in Glen Haven.

May 28, 8 p.m. – An Evening Out with a Park Ranger
Enjoy an evening outdoors with a Park Ranger at a campground talk about the park’s natural and cultural treasures. Meet at the Platte River Campground Amphitheater. The facility is handicapped accessible.

May 29, 2 p.m. – Pedal the Lakeshore – Bike Tour – Recreation and Tourism: Past, Present, and Future! (9 miles, 2.5 hours)
Bicycle through history with a Park Ranger and discover how people have kicked back and relaxed along the lakeshore. What has changed over time and how might we recreate in the future? Meet at the Glen Lake Picnic Area, located off M-109, near the Dune Climb.

All Ranger-led programs are free. Participants need only purchase the park entrance pass or have an annual pass displayed on their vehicle to join in the fun. Reservations are not required, but are suggested if you wish to bring a group. Please call (231) 326-5134, ext. 328, for details or log onto Also, check out our Facebook page at