Great Lakes
The shoreline of Lake Michigan seen from Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington Sate Park Thursday, July 11, 2019. (Photo: Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press)

MI - Great Lakes water levels to rise in 2020, threatening Michigan's state parks

LANSING — Water is rising along Michigan's prized Great Lakes shoreline, shrinking beaches, eroding dunes, flooding campgrounds, costing millions.

2019 was bad and 2020 is expected to be worse.

That means dunes are crumbling into the water, boat launches are submerged, trails are flooded, campgrounds are closed, buildings need to be moved.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park among sites seeing erosion and flooding

The impact high water has on Michigan's state parks is not a simple distillation of costs, closures and weather patterns for Ron Olson, chief of the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division.

High water affects how millions of visitors use beaches, trails and campgroundsat dozens of lakeside parks across Michigan. Olson is so involved in the department's response at each of the state's slices of coastline, every one of his examples flows into the next.

Start up north, where Lake Superior threatens to overtake the entrance to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, a remote and treasured corner of the western Upper Peninsula. Without County Road 107, say goodbye to the park's largest campground and access to the popular Lake of the Clouds.

County Road 107 in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is eroding as Lake Superior's water levels rise. Pictured here in late November, 2019.
County Road 107 in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is eroding as Lake Superior's water levels rise. Pictured here in late November, 2019. (Photo: Courtesy: Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

Speaking of flooding, Olson might recall the department closing the Harrisville State Park campground on Lake Huron, or canceling advance reservations at Muskegon State Park's Channel Campground on Lake Michigan, which likely will remain waterlogged next year.

About closures — Olson estimates it will take millions of dollars to repair the trail system in Houghton County, which flooded during a storm in 2018 and still is not fully reopen.

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