Current Conditions

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National Park Service COVID-19 Operations and Access FAQ

The safety and health of National Park Service (NPS) employees, visitors, partners, volunteers and resources remains our top priority, which is why we have been making significant operational changes in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

We recognize that at times like these, parks can fill our needs to be inspired, to find solace, and to connect with the world around us. However, we have a responsibility to ensure this need doesn’t outweigh the protection of these places and the protection of our employees and visitors. We ask the public to please recreate safely and responsibly. Avoid high-risk outdoor activities, stay in your local area and follow Leave No Trace principles. In seeking outdoor recreation, follow CDC guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and comply with state and local guidance.


As national parks continue to see congestion and overcrowding, it becomes increasingly difficult to adhere to CDC and local public health guidelines regarding social distancing. We have had to make difficult decisions to place closures of park facilities such as trails and restrooms.  We urge visitors to adhere to all closures, as well as state directives to “stay home-stay safe.” 

We are also encouraging visitors to Find their Virtual Park! NPS parks and programs are sharing virtual content on their websites and social media. Check out our wildlife webcams, virtual tours, Junior Ranger programs, citizen science videos, even coloring pages. There are countless ways to #FindYourPark from home.

 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Lakeshore) is beginning to increase recreational access to park facilities. Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, the Lakeshore is increasing recreational access and services. The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.

Beginning Friday, May 22, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will reopen access to:

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail;
all park hiking trails and trailheads;
picnic areas;
parking areas;
boat launches;
Dune Climb; and
vault toilets.

With public health in mind, the following facilities remain closed at this time:

the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire;
all campgrounds and camping;
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive;
all museums and indoor exhibits; and
full service restrooms.
 

Recreate Responsibly

Please recreate responsibly so you can protect yourself, us, and our resources. www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/recreate-responsibly.htm

Access questions

Is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore closed?
No, but some park facilities are closed. Park lands and waters, including all beaches, remain open for use. Be aware that high lake levels have caused erosion along much of the shoreline, so beaches may be obstructed or non-existent.

When will you reopen all of your facilities?
We are hoping that we will soon begin hitting some of the federal threshold phases for reopening and that guidance from public health officials will be modified.

We are still operating with minimal crew, and our seasonal hiring was delayed by travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. It will take a few weeks to get some of our facilities ready for the public.

At this time, we are hopeful we will be able to open everything by July 1, but there are so many unknowns we don't want to set false expectations.

We are eager to welcome you back! Sleeping Bear Dunes will be following guidance from state and local health authorities, the National Park Service, and the President’s three phased approach for reopening.

Are park beaches closed?
Park beaches remain open for use. Be aware that high lake levels have caused erosion along much of the shoreline so beaches may be obstructed or non-existent. We ask the public to please recreate safely and responsibly. Avoid high-risk outdoor activities, stay in your local area, and follow Leave No Trace principles. In seeking outdoor recreation, follow CDC guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and comply with state and local guidance.

I had purchased an annual pass. Will I get reimbursed or an extension to my pass?

With over 150 national parks completely closed, and nearly all the others closing some facilities (like Sleeping Bear) the National Park Service is evaluating whether and how to issue an extension of annual passes (national and park specific), but we are awaiting further guidance.

Camping questions

What is the status of campgrounds?
Currently, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hopes to reopen all park campgrounds in July. The park continues to reassess the status of the campgrounds as national, state, and local Covid-19 guidance is updated.

At present all camping reservations from May 1 - June 21 have been cancelled and full refunds processed. No new reservations or modifications to existing reservations can be made at this time.

It was our hope to announce the opening date of our campgrounds by May 29. However, at present, a schedule of reopening is still pending. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Once an opening schedule is announced, any existing reservations that fall between June 22 and the day before opening will be cancelled and full refunds processed.

Additional information on opening dates will be posted here as decisions are made.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during these uncertain times.

Why can't the campgrounds open before June 22?
June 22 is the earliest the park currently believes we can have the campgrounds ready for campers. Most of the work needed to open the campgrounds in the spring is done by seasonal staff. The National Park Service is not allowing bringing in any seasonal staff (other than law enforcement or those needed for critical operations) until May 26. Many of our seasonals come from down-state or out of state, and the current local guidance specifies a 14-day quarantine after they travel to the park. So, opening June 22 is the best estimate for the earliest we can possibly complete the quarantine, train seasonal staff, and then complete all necessary work (removing downed trees, getting the restrooms/showers functional, ensuring that water systems are safe, and staffing the campground offices) needed to open the campgrounds.

In addition, the Governor’s Safe Start Plan indicates the state will need to be in “Phase 5” before recreational travel and associated overnight stays can be resumed.

Boating, fishing, & hunting questions

Can I still hunt and fish in the park?
The ability to hunt and fish in the park has not changed. Hunters and anglers need to follow all Michigan state hunting regulations. We ask the public to please recreate safely and responsibly. Avoid high-risk outdoor activities, stay in your local area, and follow Leave No Trace. In seeking outdoor recreation, follow CDC guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and comply with state and local guidance.

Miscellaneous questions

I had planned a trip to one of the islands, when will they be open?
We hope to open facilities and operations on South Manitou and North Manitou Islands (such as water, restrooms, and campsites) by July 1. We are working with Manitou Island Transit, the ferry service to the islands, to determine how COVID-19 might affect changes to their operations. Check both the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Manitou Island Transit (manitoutransit.com) websites for updates.

Are National Park Service staff present within the Lakeshore?
Yes. Law enforcement and maintenance staff are present in the field to maintain public safety and protect park resources. NPS employees continue the work to support the NPS mission. In addition, park rangers across the country who are maintaining social distancing through telework are creating or expanding virtual educational activities and ranger programs. Most National Lakeshore employees are teleworking, continuing to carry out the mission of the NPS while slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Beginning on May 26, we will have additional staff present in the field working on park projects and readying facilities for opening.

How can I learn about the Lakeshore?
For National Lakeshore information, download the free Sleeping Bear Dunes mobile app for both iphones at Apple itunes and Android phones at Google Play. e-mail us and park rangers will answer any questions about the National Lakeshore.

How can I stay connected to the Lakeshore?
Check out our social media sites www.facebook.com/sbdnl, www.twitter.com/sleepingbearnps, and www.instagram.com/sleepingbearnps.

And don't forget to Find your Virtual Park! NPS parks and programs are sharing virtual content on their websites and social media. Check out our wildlife webcams, virtual tours, Junior Ranger programs, citizen science videos, even coloring pages. There are countless ways to #FindYourPark from home.

Didn’t find what you are looking for?
For additional answers email us at sleepingbearinfo@nps.gov.

Last updated: May 22, 2020

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Mailing Address:

9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630

Phone:

(231) 326-4700

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