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Michigan has more sand dunes than previously thought

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Michigan is home to twice as many sand dunes as previously thought.

A researcher says maps done in the 80s only accounted for large dunes, usually found along a lakeshore, but a new map shows there are over 230,000 acres of dunes in the state.

Michigan State University’s Geography Chair Alan Arbogast says he looked at remotely sensed imagery, aerial photos, topographic maps and went on field visits to complete the map.

"With our (high resolution) map we’re going to be able to identify those places and then somewhere somebody along the line can figure out what the management implications are," he says.

Arbogast says the map will also help dispel myths about Michigan dunes, as in they didn’t form just after the Ice Age.

"What we’ve shown is that there’s been a very deep, very complex evolution of the dunes system over the past 5,000 years,” he says. "That is much more complex than was originally thought."

Arbogast says just over half of the dunes are on public lands, while the other half fall under private ownership. He says the new map shows the dunes are some of the most prominent in the world.

Taylor Wizner covers heath, tourism and other news for Interlochen Public Radio.