2017-07-20 / Life in Leelanau

Lakeshore numbers down from ‘16

Island traffic increases
By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

In an unusual break from the upward trend of the last several years, the National Lakeshore had about 48,200 fewer visitors in June.

But it’s all relative, said Scott Tucker, superintendent of the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

“It was the fourth busiest June ever,” Tucker said.

A quick weather analysis may provide some answers.

“It was a little bit wetter,” he said. “That was a big piece of it.”

While the average temperatures for June were nearly the same — 64.2 degrees in 2016 and 64.4 degrees in 2017 — more than twice as much rain fell this year. June 2016 brought 2.29 inches of rain, while 5.36 inches fell in June 2017.

“That’s taking away from day trips, but big picture, we’re not concerned,” Tucker said. “There are still lots of people enjoying the Lakeshore and making memories.”


THE VIEW from the catwalk of the South Manitou Lighthouse is worth the climb. Visitors to the island will also want to hike, camp and get a look at the Francisco Morazan shipwreck located in the Manitou Passage. THE VIEW from the catwalk of the South Manitou Lighthouse is worth the climb. Visitors to the island will also want to hike, camp and get a look at the Francisco Morazan shipwreck located in the Manitou Passage. 2017 numbers were keeping pace with 2016 — when the Lakeshore saw its highest visitation ever — until March, when visitation dropped to 14,339, compared to the 20,166 people that visited in 2016.

April was back up to 38,522 — more than the 30,032 that visited last April.

But the numbers for May and June were way down. Those months saw 81,284 and 210,719 visitors respectively this year, while May 2016 saw 100,289 and June 258,960.

But records are still being broken, he said. On July 3, the Monday before the nation’s birthday, more than 5,500 people walked into the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire.

That marks the busiest day the visitor center has ever had, Tucker said.

The center normally has about 3,500 visitors for the entire Fourth of July weekend, he said.

“It could be a lot of first-time visitors getting their bearings and planning their visit,” Tucker said. “And two, we have bathrooms.”

A couple of areas of the park that are getting a little more attention this year are the Manitou islands.

Ferry passengers to North Manitou Island increased about 33 percent this June, when 850 people visited. Last June, a total of 640 people ferried over to the more primitive of the two islands.

Ferry passengers to South Manitou Island also increased this year by about 3 percent, to 1,750 visitors from 1,687 last year.

Tucker said the Manitous normally get more visitors during the shoulder seasons and he’s not sure why more people are opting to go there now, during the park’s busier time.

It could be because they are looking for solitude, he said.

“It’s really folks that are looking for a place to get away from everyone else,” Tucker said.

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