A group of about 40 people sit on the steps outside a white building.

NPS Casey Kilian

Every year, volunteers contribute more than 50,000 hours to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. People from all different backgrounds, including retirees, individuals, school groups, scouts, clubs, and organizations, donate their time to support operations at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Dedicated volunteers contribute in many ways, including assisting at the Visitor Center, staffing museums, hosting campground facilities, monitoring piping plovers, maintaining trails and historic buildings, removing invasive plants, and much more.More than 1,800 people annually make the time to give something back to Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Volunteer opportunities can vary from donating several months at a time to contributing a few hours throughout the year. Volunteering is a great way to meet other individuals who share your interests.

Opportunities for High School Students

  • Youth Visual Media Corps
    • Local high school students can assist rangers with engaging youth through digital media. Projects include, but are not limited to: photography, creating content for social media, and editing videos.
    • Hours spent during the media creation process will count towards service hours for students, which can be highlighted on college applications and resumes.
    • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore can loan free equipment to use for projects, including cameras, tripods, and audio recording equipment. The park can also provide free Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) bus passes for students to access the park via public transit if needed.
    • If interested, please email us! In your email, include your name, what high school you are attending, and what project you would be interested in (one of the above mentioned, or your own idea).

Ongoing Opportunities

  • Junior Angler

    • Summer: This event teaches children how to be safe and responsible fishers. Volunteers assist rangers at an activity station. Each station has hands on activities for kids to do which line up with activities in a Junior Angler book. Station assignments depend on your comfort level.
    • Winter (Ice fishing): Ice fishing has activity stations like summer angler but focuses on winter safety and fishing. Ice fishing adds an outdoor activity that will allow children to get on a lake, drill a hole, and set up a fishing line.
  • Adopting and Maintaining Park Trails
  • Architectural Drawings (CADD)
    • Volunteers or students with knowledge of CADD programs can assist the park's historical architect in translating building and landscape drawings into CADD.

Annual Opportunities

  • Maple Sugaring (First weekend in March)

    • There are many different volunteer positions available for this two-day event. Some stations include parking assistant, table greeter, floater, kid’s games attendant, maple taffy making and more. No prior experience is needed in MOST roles.

  • Port Oneida Fair (Second Fri/Sat in August)

    • There are many different volunteer positions available for this two-day event. Some stations include parking assistant, Junior Ranger, rope making, kids’ games, 1800’s activity stations, and more. No prior experience is needed in MOST roles.

  • Candlelight Hike

    • Support usually comes in the form of set up and take down assistance, crossing guard for visitors, table greeter, or clicking the number of visitors in attendance. No prior experience is needed for any role.

    • Volunteers with prior education or interpretation experience can assist at an educational station where visitors will spend 5-10 minutes learning about the topic at your site.

  • Barn Workshop (Third week in June)

    • This “hands-on” workshop teaches volunteers techniques on how to do restoration work on timber and frame structures. Each year volunteers help repair a different historic building to learn these techniques.

  • Pruning Workshop (First Friday in May)

    • This workshop focuses on the maintenance of neglected apple trees throughout Sleeping Bear Dunes. Through this workshop, volunteers learn how to bring the apple trees back into production and maintain their health.

Spring, Summer, and Fall Opportunities

  • Interpretation

    • Visitor Center

      • Volunteers at the Visitor Center help orient visitors to the park, give them trail recommendations, and answer other questions they many have. The hours are typically from 10am-2pm
    • Museum Docent
      • Docents staff four museums in the historic village of Glen Haven. In the Maritime Museum, docents talk with visitors about the history of the United State Life Saving Service at Sleeping Bear Dunes. In the General Store, docents teach visitors the history of D. H. Day and show them how he expanded the town of Glen Haven. The Cannery tells the story of cherry canning and dunesmobile rides. After volunteers can open/close the museums and independently give tours, they interpret at the blacksmith shop. Some volunteers start apprenticing to become blacksmiths themselves.
      • Local docents volunteer 10:30am-2pm., 2pm-5:30pm, or 10:30am-5:30pm.
      • Sleeping Bear Dunes offers free camping spaces for docents who can commit at least 8 weeks as a Glen Haven Docent. To learn more about becoming a Glen Haven volunteer, watch this short video.
  • Campground Host
    • Campground hosts assist rangers in managing campground operations, interact with visitors, answer questions, make periodic campground patrols to remove expired tags from site posts, and more. A minimum of one continuous month of work is required and a minimum of 32 hours per week is required for the volunteer occupants of one campsite. Hosts should be flexible in accepting duty schedules, which will include spending most evenings in the campground when on duty.
    • Hosts are brought on each year for D. H. Day Campground, a rustic campground, and Platte River Campground, a modern campground. Search for Sleeping Bear Dunes on volunteer.gov to look at current openings.
  • Star Party
    • Star parties are offered to the public once per month from April to October. Star party volunteers assist with parking the first 1-2 hours around sunset. If volunteers wish to stay longer, they help rangers answer visitor questions and interact with visitors in line for the telescope.
  • Maintenance Opportunities

    • Leading major clean-up efforts to collect trash.
    • Stabilizing and rehabilitating historic structures and landscapes.
  • Natural Resource Opportunities

    • Eliminating exotic weeds
    • Planting native plants
    • Monitoring avian botulism
    • outreach about wildlife safety and protection
  • Preventative Search And Rescue Opportunities

    • Preventative Search and Rescue (PSAR) volunteers are stationed at the Dunes Climb and Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive Lake Michigan Overlook during peak use times. PSAR volunteers provide vital safety messaging to recreating visitors.
    • Review the full Preventative Search and Rescue Volunteer Description

Join Us

If any of these sounds like something you may be interested in, contact our volunteer coordinator, Matt Mohrman or call 231-326-4729.

Looking for internship and job possibilities? Visit the Jobs page.

Track your hours

If you're one of our incredible VIPs, remember to track your hours. You can email them to Matt.


Last updated: May 31, 2024

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Mailing Address:

9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630


231 326-4700

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