The Mother Bear and Cubs of Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore honors a faithful mother bear.

Dunes and dune grass
Dunes and dune grass near the Sleeping Bear Point Trail.

Photo by NPS.

At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, the large dune is known as Sleeping Bear Dune. Although the 2,000-year-old dune no longer resembles a bear, the Chippewa Indians used the Bear as a landmark. They believe the dune was created by the Great Spirit Manitou to honor a faithful mother bear. She and her two cubs were driven into Lake Michigan to escape a forest fire. The bears swam for many hours, but the cubs got tired and lagged behind. When mother bear reached the shore, she climbed to the top of a bluff to watch for her cubs. The cubs were too tired and drowned within sight of the shore. The Great Spirit Manitou marked the spot where the cubs drowned by creating two islands and then made a solitary dune to represent the mother.