And lately, “most beautiful.”
But what about the numbers?
We’ve assembled numbers that also can be used to describe the Lakeshore, and placed them in descending order. Like the national park itself, the numbers change from year to year — with the exception of its No. 1 ranking in the hearts of visitors and Leelanau County residents.
Park Record Attendance
The record number of people visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was achieved in 1999, and attendance has been up and down since then. Last year, attendance was up to 1,348,304 — the second highest number ever. It appears the National Lakeshore is on pace to exceed the alltime record this year. As of the end of June, 400,221 visitors had been counted compared to 251,965 visitors by the end of June 2011.
Acres in the Park
Of that amount, 45,854 acres are located in Leelanau County. The remaining acres are in neighboring Benzie County to the south. Of the 71,210 acres within the National Lakeshore, 1,715 are still privately owned, 57,427 acres are owned by the federal government, and 12,067 acres are owned by various units of state and local government.
Number of passengers ferried to the Manitou islands in 2011
Of that number, 6,939 traveled to South Manitou Island and 3,148 to North Manitou Island on ferry boats operated from Leland by Manitou Island Transit. Last year’s numbers were up more than 10 percent from 2010 when 9,002 were ferried to the islands. This year’s numbers are on pace to be bigger than last year, with 2,467 ferry passengers through the end of June 2012 compared to 2,131 by the end of June 2011.
Peak number of park employees in the summer
National Park Service officials say the numbers are a little higher this summer than the usual 130 or so employed at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore because of a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant the park received this year for additional work. There are normally around 80 temporary seasonal employees added each year, but this year there are 103.
The number of dollars for a fine when you don’t buy a park pass
Park rangers can issue you a $100 ticket if you don’t have a park pass, but they usually just issue a warning for a first offense, according to National Park Service officials.
The number of campsites at the D.H. Day Campground
Of course, there are other places to camp at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, but D.H. Day is the largest National Park Service campground in Leelanau County. The Platte River Campground in Benzie County offers 96 campsites. On the Manitou islands, located in Leelanau County, there are 29 campsites on South Manitou and eight on North Manitou near an historic village. Otherwise there are an “unlimited” number of places to camp in the “backcountry” of North Manitou and elsewhere in the park.
The usual number of year-round park employees
The numbers fluctuate from year-toyear and include varying numbers of part-time, seasonal or grant-funded employees. However, a 2010 study indicated that Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore had an average annual employment level of 111 people and an annual payroll of nearly $4 million.
The number of years since the Lakeshore was established
On Oct. 21, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will celebrate its 42nd birthday. The park was created by an Act of Congress on Oct. 21, 1970 that stated: “…the Congress finds that certain outstanding natural features, including forests, beaches, dune formations, and ancient glacial phenomena, exist along the mainland shore of Lake Michigan and on certain nearby islands in Benzie and Leelanau Counties, Michigan, and that such features ought to be preserved in their natural setting and protected from developments and uses which would destroy the scenic beauty and natural character of the area.”
The number of dollars for a park pass
That $20 fee will buy you a pass good for everybody in your vehicle for a 12-month period. Locals who visit the park frequently throughout the year generally buy the annual pass. If you’re only visiting for a little while and want to save a little money, you can buy a seven-day pass for $10 per private vehicle, or a $5 per-person pass good for seven days.
The ranking awarded by viewers of Good Morning America
In 2011, viewers of the popular ABC-TV show voted Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as “The Most Beautiful Place in America.”