Boekelodge Log Cabin Cultural Landscape District

A log cabin with a pitched roof and the word "Boekelodge" on the front, with a picnic table on a platform in front
Boekelodge Cabin

Edwards / NPS, 2019


Boekelodge Log Cabin was originally built as a homestead cabin in 1932 by homesteaders who hunted, trapped, fished, and tended a garden on the land from 1929 to 1935. Miles Boekeloo purchased the land and cabin in 1945 and undertook improvements. In 1970, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was established and inquiries about NPS purchasing the land began in the mid-1970s. The Boekeloo family continued to use it as a wilderness retreat until a Reservation of Use and Occupancy agreement with the National Park Service expired in 2002.

The period of significance for Boekelodge is 1929 to 2005 corresponding to the original cabin construction and use of the land as a homestead, purchase and use by the Boekeloo family, and the purchase by the NPS and expiration of the agreement. The cultural landscape is 365.48 acres containing beach, dunes, woodland, trails, buildings, and small-scale features. It was one of the last existing wilderness retreats, which were popular in the mid-20th century, in the state of Michigan.
Grasses and scattered conifers grow in low sand dunes.
Vegetation and dunes within the cultural landscape.

Edwards / NPS, 2019

A sign on a wooden gate across a trail in the woods says "Please do not park in front of this gate. Thanks, M.W. Boekeloo"
Entrance gate

Edwards / NPS, 2019

Landscape Description

Boekelodge, in Benzie County, Michigan, is owned, managed, and maintained by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Approximately 15 minutes south of Empire, Michigan, along HWY 22, Boekeloo Road leads west-northwest to a dead end with a gate and entry path to the cabin. The Boekelodge cultural landscape is a unique primitive vacation site on the northeastern shore of Lake Michigan. The Boekelodge Cabin is 716 sq. ft., including an addition on the back built by Miles Boekeloo. The front gable has red painted letters reading BOEKELODGE. The only other building in the cultural landscape is the privy northwest of the cabin.

The cabin faces a pond hand dug by Miles Boekeloo and hired help. The pond enhances the primitive feeling of the cultural landscape and creates a view from the front of the cabin looking east. A trail leading from the cabin goes through woodlands, wetlands, and dunes arriving at Boekeloo Beach on the northeast lakeshore of Lake Michigan. These natural systems were significant to the use and feeling the Boekeloo family had during the period of significance.

A narrow footpath leads to a log cabin to the right of a pond, which is surrounded by trees and grasses
Boekeloo Pond

Edward / NPS, 2019

Historic Use

Joseph Cooper purchased the 161- acre property in 1929 to be used as his family’s homestead. He improved the site by building the original one-room footprint of the cabin, outbuildings, and hand dug drainage canals. The canals were for plans to create a cranberry bog. However, the plans were never recognized. Cooper moved off the land in the mid-1930s and it sat uninhibited for approximately 10 years.

One-story cabin with saddle notched logs, a gable roof, and the word "Boekelodge" over the front door and windows.
Boekelodge Log Cabin and landscape in the 1970s.


Miles Boekeloo, and his wife Glea, purchased the 161-acres from Cooper in 1945. Boekeloo and his family and friends used the land as a rustic getaway. He immediately set to work building and repairing the property and cabin. He hired men in 1945 to help him dig a pond in front of the cabin. This was in the location that Cooper had hoped to have a cranberry bog and the canals, while never functional, lead to the pond dug by Boekeloo. Other features he added to the landscape were two privies, a deck on the front of the cabin, and in 1963, an addition to the back of the cabin to be used as a bunk room for family and guests.

During the mid-20th century, the almost untouched, natural landscape was threatened by development propositions on the Lake Michigan shore. These propositions threatened the Boekeloo land from the south and west. The Boekeloo family enjoyed their use of the property because of its natural setting and they strived to maintain the setting throughout their ownership. This threat of development led Miles Boekeloo to purchase an additional 204.48 acres in 1962. This purchase was significant because it included about 1.25 miles of lakefront beach. Miles had a few trees cut to create a trail from the beach to the cabin.
In 1980, Miles Boekeloo negotiated and sold his 365.48 acres to the National Park Service and it became part of Sleeping Bears Dunes National Lakeshore. The negotiations included a 25-year Reservation of Use and Occupancy agreement for a 5-acre parcel that included the pond and cabin. The family continued to use these 5-acres until April 2005 when the agreement expired. Features that Joseph Cooper and Miles Boekeloo built and used exist today. These features include the cabin and its addition, the trails to the beach and Boekeloo Road, the drainage canals, and the pond. For the past 15 years, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has worked with local preservation group, Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear, to restore and maintain the cabin and only existing privy. The natural, primitive setting and feeling of the cultural landscape is crucial for the historic integrity because it’s why Boekeloo chose to purchase the property and enjoyed spending time there with his family and friends.
A pool of water in a depression in sand dunes, which are covered in grasses and scattered conifers.
The landscape is characterized by ridges and swales, a feature that offers exceptionally complex and diverse habitats for wetland, upland, and Great Lakes shoreline plants and animals.

Edwards / NPS, 2019

Quick Facts

  • Cultural Landscape Type: Historic Vernacular Landscape
  • National Register Level of Significance: State
  • National Register Eligibility for Significance:
Criteria A as one of the few remaining wilderness retreats and cabins in the state of Michigan.
Criteria C as a good example in the State of Michigan as one of its historic construction, workmanship, and material of a rustic cabin in an undeveloped landscape.

  • Period of Significance: 1929 - 2005

Part of a series of articles titled Cultural Landscapes of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Last updated: April 1, 2021