Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore deals with newfound popularity

Jun 28, 2016

Miners Castle rock formation along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Credit Charles Dawley

Communities near the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are doing their best to deal with a surge of tourists.

Attendance at the park has been rising for five years. Last year, the number of visitors jumped by 37 percent - to more than 720,000 people. That’s caused issues with parking, and a lack of restrooms and hotel rooms.

Munising Mayor Rod DesJardins says the popularity of the park is changing his town.

“We used to be somewhat of a sleepy, backwater town with a modest summer tourist economy," says DesJardins. "Now we are a premier destination in the Midwest.”

Munising’s government formed a committee last year to deal with some of the problems. The city has spent $4 million on its recreation areas and is helping to run a new shuttle bus to local beaches.

“It is a good problem to have," says DesJardins. "I look at other communities in the U.P. that have a tourist-based economy, and they would kill to have the problem we have.”

DesJardins says the park's popularity has been boosted by the Pure Michigan campaign, which features images of the park, and new National Park Service passes that also show off the park.

Park Superintendent Laura Rotegard says new restrooms are being built, and the contract for cleaning services has been doubled.

Rotegard says the park is conducting a study this summer to try to pinpoint exactly where visitors are going and what activities they're involved in. Rotegard says the only complaint she's heard form visitors is that solitude is a bit harder to find in the park.

“It’s now more of a social experience … there’s more people out there with you,” says Rotegard.