The disappearing Sleeping Bear Dune

TitleThe disappearing Sleeping Bear Dune
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1950
AuthorsGates FC

Recent changes in the outline and contour of Sleeping Bear dune are so impressive that this paper calls attention to this destruction. Pathways on the windward side of the dune were the beginning of such destruction. Sleeping Bear dune (fig. 1) is situated at the west end of Leelanau County, Michigan, about 25 miles west of Traverse City and about 4 miles north of Empire. It is perched on a glacial moraine overlooking Lake Michigan on the west. In the region of the Bear the glacial moraine is approximately 300 feet above the surface of Lake Michigan and the dune perched upon its edge is now about 75 feet higher than the moraine surface. This dune was a source of interest long before white men appeared. "It was an ancient landmark when Charlevoix saw it in 1722. (John C. Wright in "The Crooked Tree.") Even now it is of great interest, but too much so for its continued existence. The Indian legend of the origin of Muckwah ne bod, the Sleeping Bear dune, is as follows: Long ago a mother bear and her two cubs fleeing from forest fires in Wisconsin swam across the big lake to the Michigan side. The mother reached shore first and dragged herself up the steep slope and lay down to await the cubs. But the cubs, worn out by the long swim, sank with the shore in sight. The mother bear lay there grieving, watching the spot where her cubs had drowned. In mercy, the Great Spirit turned the cubs into islands--the present day North and South Manitou Islands--and covered the mother bear with sand--the present Sleeping Bear dune.