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Michigan’s National Parks Slow to Open

Manitou Transit ferries announced they will not be running any boats to the Manitou Islands in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this year.

In a bit of a shock, the National Park Service has announced that Isle Royale National Park is delaying its seasonal opening until further notice. For most people, the park is basically closed for the year as the Ranger III, Voyageur II, Sea Hunter III, and Isle Royale Queen IV will not provide visitor ferry transportation this summer. Rock Harbor Lodge, including overnight lodging, dining, marina services, gift shops and stores, will also remain closed for the season.

As the NPS develops its phased approach, it will evaluate providing access to the park in late June/early July. But the decision involves a number of factors, including the availability of personal protective equipment and the number of EMS-qualified park staff.

At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore all park hiking trails and trailheads picnic areas, boat launches and theDune Climb opened access beginning Memorial Weekend. On June 23 the park will open additional mainland facilities including the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire, Platte River Campground, D.H. Day Campground and the walk-in White Pine Campground.

But Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore also announced some shocking news.

Manitou Island Transit ferry has canceled its service for the year, meaning there is no way for the vast majority of visitors, campers and backpackers to reach North Manitou or South Manitou Islands. High water in Lake Michigan has damaged the dock at South Manitou Island, making it unsafe for disembarking passengers until it can be repaired. At North Manitou Island, sand movement over the winter has made dock access nearly impossible until a previously planned dredging contract can be carried out in late July.

Facing the prospect of such a late start to their season, the ferry service made the very difficult business decision to cancel operations for the year. Their concession contract with the NPS will be modified to accommodate this temporary suspension of visitor services.

In the interim, both islands will be open for visitors who are able to access them via private boat or charter services. Camping on the islands will be permitted when camping resumes throughout the National Lakeshore on June 23. Water and restrooms will be available on the islands, but there will be no lighthouse or farm tours this year.

New camping reservations and modifications to existing reservations can be made beginning June 23 by calling Recreation.gov at 1-877-444-6777 or online at www.recreation.gov.The good news is that the park is set to

Our third national park – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – has also just released this season’s opening dates as the park will open several campgrounds on June 12 and all drive-in campgrounds and backcountry camping by June 20.

A hiker on the Lakeshore Trail in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Due to the coronavirus, however, visitor centers and the Au Sable lighthouse remain closed. Visitor services are being provided by information boards and by phone and the centers will open as COVID-19 restrictions are further relaxed.

Reservations are required for all camping and are made through www.recreation.gov. And as always if you a trail map go to MichiganTrailMaps.com at: www.michigantrailmaps.com/product/pictured-rocks-lakeshore-trail/
The park concession boat tours, Pictured Rocks Cruises, will resume operations on June 15 and many local businesses have already begun operating in the park. Go to: www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/kayaking-other-guided-tours.htm for a complete listing of authorized businesses utilizing the park.

Updates on Isle Royale National Park opening will be posted on www.nps.gov/isro/planyourvisit/conditions.htm. For updates to Pictured Rocks go to: www.nps.gov/piro; and Sleeping Bear Dunes at www.nps.gov/slbe.



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