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Michigan's "True North"




Photo: The South Manitou Island Lighthouse
(High Resolution Photos Available on Request)

TRAVERSE CITY, MI -- In their breathtaking sweep of water, sky and sand, Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunescan sometimes be overwhelming. Walking a high trail in the dunelands or a lonely beach on North Manitou Island, you can sometimes feel like the first person on Earth. Or perhaps the last.

But that desolation is illusory. A century ago, the coves, islands and clearings of this haunted coast were filled with bustling activity – prosperous farms, noisy sawmills, rollicking towns, harbors filled with fishing boats, schooners and steamships. Even though the area is mostly uninhabited now (thanks to its status as a national park) it still carries plentiful reminders of the people who once called it home.

Many of the hundreds of historic structures in the park are decaying into picturesque ruins amid the returning forest, but a surprising number have been rescued and preserved, and a few have found “second careers” as museums, social centers and other public buildings.

"There was a time when a large number of these historic resources were in jeopardy,” says Susan Pocklington, director of Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear, an organization devoted to the human history of the park. “This vast collection of farms and maritime structures… went largely unnoticed when the Park was established.”
Thanks to a determined public awareness campa
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