News Release

Sleeping Bear Dunes Celebrates 50th Anniversary

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Date: October 8, 2020

The big day is approaching! Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) celebrates its 50th anniversary on Wednesday, October 21. Although it’s not the way the National Park Service planned to honor the big day, there will be plenty of opportunities to join in the fun. Focusing on a virtual celebration offers opportunities for people to participate in activities whenever they can from wherever they may be. It is exciting to think about so many people coming together to celebrate this National Lakeshore milestone.

Website Landing Page - The landing page on the National Lakeshore’s website is the one-stop shop for all things 50th. There are links to all the activities, whether you are visiting the park and looking to become a 50th anniversary Junior Ranger, challenging yourself to complete the Play Your Way 50-mile challenge, or discovering new areas in the park with the Explore the Shore scavenger hunt. You can also read about the mission and goals the park has established for its 50th anniversary and how you can help plan the future of the National Lakeshore. Check it out here:

Star Party - The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society (GTAS) in collaboration with Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) will be hosting a virtual star party on Friday, October 16, 8:00-10:00 p.m. Celebrate the dark skies of northern Michigan with GTAS. They have been a partner with the National Lakeshore for star parties since their 40th anniversary and are happy to continue to work with them as they turn 50.

Play Your Way 50-Mile Challenge - Your mission: Log 50 miles in any combination of activities, whether its hiking, running, biking, kayaking, skiing, snowshoeing or even horseback riding (on the Alligator Hill Trail) along any of our trails, beaches or waterways, or any other locations within the park. Once you have at least 50 miles under your belt, show the form to a ranger at one of our contact stations, including the visitor center in Empire or campground offices. You can also mail it in or email: to receive your special edition “Play Your Way” sticker and all the bragging rights that come with it! Share your experience using #PlayYourWaySleepingBear50.

Explore the Shore - This scavenger hunt-style activity is jam-packed with trivia and curiosity questions at 12 locations throughout the National Lakeshore. Use our informative waysides and your own imagination to answer the questions at your own pace. Share your adventure on social media using #ShareSLBE and #SleepingBear50

50th Anniversary Junior Ranger - Complete fun activities such as a Leave No Trace maze, cracking the secret code and learning what kind of ranger you would be and we will send you a special edition wooden Sleeping Bear Dunes 50th Junior Ranger badge in the mail along with a certificate. Once you have finished the activities, let us know by emailing us at (be sure to include your mailing address) or stop by one of our campground offices or the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire, MI.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Pledge - The choices you make while visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are important and affect the park’s overall well-being. Help the National Lakeshore become a better place for all by taking the 50th pledge: “I pledge to respect, protect, and enjoy Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for the next 50 years!” Share yourself taking the pledge on social media and use #SleepingBearPledge and #ShareSLBE and we will pick our favorites to share on our official page.
Mobile App - Planning a trip to the National Lakeshore and need some help? The park has released its first mobile app. The app is available for download to Apple and Android devices. Discover new information about popular sites, find park services, see new photos while learning more about favorite historic places, and explore little known natural features. This app has all you need to visit the National Lakeshore and discover all of its hidden treasures right from your phone.

50th Anniversary Park Pass - Purchase a commemorative 50th anniversary park pass for only $45.00. Stop by the visitor center in Empire to get your very own 50th anniversary pass. Every year, the National Lakeshore sells over 11,000 annual park entrance passes. With a regular seven-day entrance pass ringing up for $25.00, the annual pass pays for itself in only two visits! Passes are valid for 12 months and provide free entry for the holder and occupants in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle. If entry is by foot, bicycle, or organized group not part of a commercial tour, the pass admits the pass holder and three adults (16 years of age or older). Children under 16 have free admission to the National Lakeshore.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Birthday Buddy - Apostle Islands National Lakeshore celebrated its 50th anniversary on September 26th. You can still wish them a happy birthday through the Friends of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: You can also take a virtual visit: The National Lakeshores have been connecting with each other on social media. Check out the content at #ApostleandSleepingBear50.

50th Fun Activities - The National Lakeshore has created some fun activities for children (of all ages) to celebrate, including a scavenger hunt, word search puzzle, and an activity to build your own birthday bear.

Artist-in-Residence Gallery - Since the National Lakeshore was not able to offer a 2020 Artist-in-Residence program, you can visit the virtual art gallery featuring submissions to the 2020 Artist-in-Residence program.

Virtual Museum - The National Lakeshore is increasing the ways to learn about and explore the National Lakeshore from wherever you are. This virtual museum contains items from the park’s collection. These historic objects help bring the story of Sleeping Bear Dunes to life. Items will continue to be added to this museum. The grand opening of the virtual museum will be on October 21.

Time Capsule - To commemorate the 50th anniversary, the National Lakeshore is making a time capsule. Items that represent 2020 (yes, a mask will be included) as well as items from each decade will be added. A video about the time capsule will be released on October 21 as part of the big day’s virtual activities.

Anishinaabek Connection - The National Lakeshore is working to improve its relationship with the local tribes by consulting with them for park projects in interpretation and natural resources. It is also working to help the tribes share their story through new interpretive waysides and a Anishinaabek Distance Learning program. Updated information has been added to the park’s website, posted on social media, and incorporated into other interpretive projects. Check out the updated “Story of Sleeping Bear” page here:

Virtual Visit - Can’t make it to the park to celebrate? Plan a virtual visit! The park has been working on a YouTube channel that has a variety of existing and new content being added to help celebrate the 50th   anniversary. Some of the new content includes videos that are audio described for visitors with visual impairments, and a short series titled Glen Haven Vignettes that focus on some of the historical stories associated with the village of Glen Haven. Check out the YouTube channel at:

Mobile Visitor Center - The National Lakeshore is pleased to announce the delivery of a mobile visitor center to the park, just in time for the 50th anniversary. The mobile visitor center will aid in efforts to reach what are typically underserved communities in urban areas and will serve as a mobile contact station at outreach events throughout Michigan and possibly the Midwest region once it is again safe to do so.Park staff and the mobile visitor center will be popping up throughout the park on Saturday, October 17, and again for the Anniversary celebrations on October 21. Look for it at popular locations within the park. Feel free to stop and check it out while minding CDC COVID-19 guidelines. If you spot the new visitor center out in the wild, please snap a photograph and share it using the hashtag #SleepingBearOnTheRoad.

Week of Celebration - Celebrate with us wherever you are. During the week leading up to October 21, the National Lakeshore will have a different activity for people to participate in each day. The activities will be open-ended and self-guided and can be done anywhere at anytime. The intention is to encourage folks to celebrate Sleeping Bear Dunes in their own way and share with the broader community on social media.Pop-ups - Join park staff at pop-up programs throughout the day on our anniversary. They will be sharing 50th anniversary activities as well as talking about park projects and what make Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore special. They can be found in popular areas of the park such as the Dune Climb, Glen Haven, Platte Point, and other possible locations.

Last updated: October 8, 2020

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