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Sleeping Bear Dunes visitation down for July and August

Sleeping Bear Dunes, a popular tourist spot in Northern Michigan
Rodney Campbell
Sleeping Bear Dunes, a popular tourist spot in Northern Michigan

Visits to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore have been down the last couple of months.

2020 was a record year for visitors at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Over a million people went to the park in July and August alone. This year just can’t keep up. Park visits fell from about 1,082,000 in 2020 to 890,000 during the same two months in 2021.

That’s the fewest visitors the park has seen during those months since 2015. Deputy superintendent Tom Ulrich says visitation numbers this year are pretty consistent with pre-pandemic numbers.

“I think it was not so much that attendance is down this year as it was attendance was through the roof in 2020,” said Ulrich.

Even though visitation numbers are down compared to last year, they’re up overall compared to past years. Ulrich says the park is on pace for its second busiest year yet.

“I think it's a continuation of last year,” said Ulrich. “People still might be hesitant to do some things like movie theaters and amusement parks and things of that nature, but you can always go for a hike and go to the beach or float a river.”

Despite fewer visitors this year, Sleeping Bear Dunes’ revenue is expected to be about a million dollars higher than last year. That’s because the National Parks Service waived entrance fees across the country during the beginning of the pandemic.

Max Copeland is the local weekday host of All Things Considered on Interlochen Public Radio and the producer of The Up North Lowdown, IPR’s weekly news podcast.