HOME TO THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF FRESHWATER COASTAL SAND DUNES IN THE WORLD, MICHIGAN IS A FAVORITE VACATION SPOT FOR THOUSANDS OF VISITORS EACH YEAR. BUT UNTIL RECENTLY, THE TRUE GEOGRAPHICAL EXTENT OF THE DUNES WAS UNCERTAIN. NOW, THANKS TO A MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY RESEARCHER, WE'RE A LITTLE CLOSER TO KNOWING.
Alan Arbogast, chairperson of MSU’s Department of Geography, recently supervised the creation of the most detailed, comprehensive map of Michigan’s dunes, totaling more than 230,000 acres. In addition to mapping previously unrecognized dunes on the west coast of Lower Michigan, the map also includes dunes on the eastern side of the Lower Peninsula, along Lake Huron — which aren’t mapped in other surveys.
“We discovered there are over twice as many acres of dunes that actually exist compared to those previously mapped in the 1980s as ‘critical dunes,’ which are generally the larger, more prominent dunes that are regulated to some extent along the lakeshore,” Arbogast says. “Our updated map fills an important knowledge gap and is a powerful new tool to support and enable future research, geographic analysis and community engagement.”