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Michigan’s National Parks Slow to Open

Paddlers taking a break at Isle Royale National Park. Ferry transport to the Lake Superior park will not be running this year due to COVID-19.

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.

Better news was announced at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as the park will open access beginning Memorial Weekend, to:

  • Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail;
  • all park hiking trails and trailheads;
  • picnic areas;
  • parking areas;
  • boat launches;
  • Dune Climb; and
  • vault toilets.

Not opening at this time however are the following facilities:

  • the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire;
  • all campgrounds and camping;
  • Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive;
  • all museums and indoor exhibits; and
  • full service restrooms.

“While these areas are again accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited,” said Sleeping Bear Dunes Superintendent Scott Tucker. “In the meantime, visitors should follow state and local health orders, avoid crowding, and avoid high-risk outdoor activities. It is very important for everyone to follow CDC guidance for physical distancing and face coverings in order to continue the progress that has been made so we can keep these facilities open.”

The lookout along Pierce Stocking Drive in Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.

As of now Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore still plans to open June 25. Until then visitor centers, drive-in and backcountry campgrounds, drinking water and most restrooms will be closed at the Upper Peninsula park. Trails and beaches within the national lakeshore however will be open to day-use only.

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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