Warren Dunes, briefly

In July my friend visited Notre Dame to run in the Sunburst (Half-)Marathon, and while he was around we took a trip to Warren Dunes State Park. Dunes occur over a broad area in the eastern shore of Lake Michigan (Sleeping Bear, Silver Lake, Cowles Bog, etc.), with Warren Dunes being one of the largest and most popular southernmost parks.

Peak ridge of a sand dune

This was my second trip to a sand dune field (my first was nearby Cowles Bog), and I’m consistently surprised by the variety of environments in such a small area. Some near-shore areas are almost all sand:

People scrambling up, also note group of three on horizon at right

But a few hundred meters down the shore, heavily vegetated sand dunes appear to be securely anchored in place:

Of course, looks can be deceiving and a closer inspection revealed exposed roots in some areas – a result of dune migration, or just short-term erosion?

Other than a few birds, trace fossils, and a heck of a lot of mosquitoes in the boggy inland area, there wasn’t much visible life on the dunes. That is, until we saw this guy (he was hard to miss)

The mosquitoes were so bad that we took the first opportunity we came across to get out of the bog and back into dune territory. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a steep face of a sand dune. We had to take a few breaks on the way to the top…

Here I used photo-documentation as an excuse to pause.

It was so steep that in some areas, even though he was so far away his footsteps would cause sand near me to collapse. My best estimate from maps of the area are that it was ~70 ft to the top, with this photo being taken ~halfway up. We did a quick 4 mile hike around the park to see some highlights, but I’m looking forward to a return trip next summer to learn a bit more about the area and spend some time on the beach.