Platte River Point Beach

Clear, bright blue water of river winds toward bar of sand and a large lake
Beautiful blue Platte River winds towards Lake Michigan

NPS credit

Quick Facts

Beach/Water Access, Entrance Passes For Sale, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Parking - Auto, Restroom - Seasonal, Water - Drinking/Potable

This sublime area where the Platte River flows into Lake Michigan is a busy place during the hot summer days. The finish line for Platte River tubers and paddlers means a bustling parking lot, but you're a short walk away from bathing in the shallows of the river or taking a plunge in the depths of Lake Michigan. The river is shallow and flows rapidly at this point, and kids love swimming and floating in the current and wave action that occurs where the waters merge. The awe-inspiring views of Empire Bluffs and Sleeping Bear Point are just icing on the cake.

NO pets are allowed on this beach.

Many consider this beach to be the best in the park to watch shorebirds. The Audubon Society has designated the area an Important Bird Area (IBA). During the summer look for piping plovers, spotted sandpipers, killdeer, and also Caspian terns.
A popular plover nesting area, sections of the shoreline are often closed (see below). Watch and enjoy plovers from a distance. You can walk the shoreline around fencing. Don't leave food on the beach or feed gulls and animals who may prey on piping plovers.

Where should I park?
Parking lots fill during busy summer months. The Park Service has two lots on the north and south sides of Lake Michigan Road. The south side is equipped with cell-phone coverage, accessible parking, restrooms with running water, accessible dressing rooms and raised charcoal grills. The automated fee station is at the south lot.
Lake Township Park, owned by Benzie County, is just west of the south lot and has a picnic area in addition to parking. A township user fee is required.

Ever changing shoreline

An active dune field has grown at the mouth of the Platte River to form Platte River Point, and the beach is a sandy gravel becoming increasingly sandy to the north. The beach is wide near the point, with a grassy dune field extending back to the forest. During the summer months, small nearshore sandbars migrate onshore and join the existing the beach, causing it to widen. The same sand will be carried offshore again in fall storms. The shoreline is constantly being sculpted by waves and breaking-wave swash which forms a variety of patterns, and often concentrates thin layers of heavy minerals. Bring a magnet to the beach, and you will be able to separate magnetite (the dark-colored sand) from the other high-density minerals.

Early campers

We aren't the first people to be drawn to the beauty and fun of Platte River Point. Turns out the Platte River has been a hot spot for camping for a very long time. Archeological investigations have shown that small groups of closely related individuals from the Woodland Period (600 B.C. to 1620 A.D.) paid short visits to the area. They may have been a family traveling to their winter hunting grounds, or a group of hunters on an extended trip, or a group that came to gather wild plants and berries. No matter why they stopped to camp, I'll bet it was a highlight of their travels!

Enjoy the Beach Safely

Poison Ivy: leaves of three, leave it be!
Poison ivy grows plentifully in many areas of the Lakeshore as a vine or low shrub. The leaves are red in early spring, shiny green in summer, and an attractive red or orange in the fall. Each leaf consists of three leaflets. Most people are sensitive in varying degrees to the sap of this plant, which makes the skin itch, blister, and swell.

Avoid contact with all parts of the plant. Avoid plants with three leaflets.

If exposed, wash the affected skin with soap and water as soon as possible.

Beach fires
Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over glowing coals while watching the sun go down over the lake is a perfect ending to a fun day at the beach. Beach fire are allowed on our mainland Lake Michigan beaches between the water's edge and where the dunes begin, and away from any vegetation. Make sure you use firewood from park approved vendors to help us protect our forests from pest and disease. And be sure to extinguish all beach fires with water. DO NOT bury fires-hidden embers could burn unsuspecting bare feet!

Take care around plover nesting area
Keep a watchful eye out for a tiny animal friend, the piping plover, a threatened species that breeds here in the spring. Piping plovers find the cobbled beaches of Sleeping Bear Dunes an ideal place to find mates, nest, and raise their young. To protect the plovers and their nests, some parts of the beach may be temporarily closed to visitors and pets. Please help us protect these special birds by keeping dogs on a leash and obeying all beach closure signs.

Step around the Pitcher's thistle
Pitcher's thistle (Cirsium pitcher) blooms only once when the plant is seven years old. This native thistle grows only on the shorelines or sand dunes of the Great Lakes and is common in the Lakeshore. It is a threatened species: it is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. 

Walking through foredunes on your way to the beach may trample and kill these plants before they can reproduce. So please watch out for the Pitcher's thistle: stay on the wooden walkways and established trails.

Swim safe
The Lakeshore's pristine beaches are ideal for swimming, but forceful waves and rip currents can turn a fun visit into a frightening one. Use caution when swimming alone and take special precautions with children: keep a close watch on all children, stay within arm's reach, and be sure they are wearing a life jacket.

Be alert for rip currents
Although they are not common in the Lakeshore, rip currents are dangerous and can occur at any beach with breaking waves.
Lake Michigan conditions can change quickly. Know what to expect before you go in the water. Monitor the weather and check out the swim risk level for the beach you plan to visit. Read more in Safety.

Paddle safe
Before going out for a paddle, check the weather. Have a boating plan and make sure others know it. Always wear safety gear, including personal flotation devices. Buddy up, don't go out alone. Check your boat and make sure it is safe for conditions. And always keep the shoreline in sight.

Lake Michigan Pirates: Roaring Dan Seavey

Lake Michigan's eastern shoreline is a paradise treasured by tourists and recreationists. But during the periods of western expansion, the upper Great Lakes region was a very dangerous place. Up until the mid-1800s, a wild west mentality ruled the Great Lakes. The lakes were a source for all kinds of smuggling, poaching, and piracy. Pirates sailed the waters stealing beaver pelts, timber, and sometimes entire ships. One notable pirate was Roaring Dan Seavey, a man that would sail out into the lakes and plunder wherever and whatever he could.

Seavey and a small crew would silently slip his schooner, the Wanderer, with no running lights, into ports in the dead of night and make off with anything on wharves, in unlocked warehouses, or on nearby streets-cattle, hay, leather goods, fruit--anything of value and could be carried on the schooner.

Known for his monumental acts of drinking, brawling, whoring, poaching, and stealing, Seavey also practiced moon cussing: a pirate trick of rearranging or removing or putting up fake port lights so that ships coming in would crash on the rocks. Then, his crew would board the ship and steal the cargo. He earned most of his money from poaching venison and stealing. He also ran an offshore casino and brothel.

Seavey's biggest heist was stealing the 40-ft schooner Nellie Johnson in Grand Haven, Michigan. As the story goes, he gained the trust of the Nellie Johnson's crew and captain and came aboard with booze and drank them all under the table. When the crew was passed out, he and his crew removed them from the schooner and set sail for Chicago to sell the cedar posts onboard. Unable to sell anything and being discovered as a pirate, Seaver took the Nellie Johnson and fled up the coast of Lake Michigan. He eluded federal authorities for two weeks but was captured near Frankfort. He was taken back to Chicago where he claimed he won the ship in a poker game. The ship's real captain never showed up, so charges were dropped and he was set free.
The only man ever formally charged with piracy on the Great Lakes, Seavey eventually was deputized as a U.S. Marshall and tasked with curbing poaching and robbery on Lake Michigan.

Pirates in our region were tough, but they were practical too. They wore knitted wool caps and mittens and sweaters. When the lakes iced over, the sweater-wearing pirates would head home until May.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Last updated: November 7, 2021