Legend of the Sleeping Bear

The dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes are fantastic for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and sledding. Credit: left: ©iStockphoto.com/ RiverNorthPhotography; below: National Park ServiceThe dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes are fantastic for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and sledding. Credit: left: ©iStockphoto.com/ RiverNorthPhotography; right: National Park Service

Sleeping Bear Dunes gets its name from a Chippewa legend that tells the story of a mother bear and her two cubs who, fleeing a fire in the woods of Wisconsin on the other side of Lake Michigan, plunged into the lake and began swimming to find safe haven. But the swim was tiring, and the cubs soon fell behind their mother. Upon reaching Michigan’s shores, the mother bear climbed out of the water, turned and watched, waiting for her cubs to join her. The cubs came into sight, but, too tired to finish the journey, they drowned just before reaching shore. The mother then lay down and fell into a slumber, forever awaiting her cubs. A spirit known as the Great Spirit Manitou created two islands — North and South Manitou islands — to commemorate the spot where the cubs’ journey ended, and then covered the mother with sand, forming the famous dune at the lakeshore.

Lucas Joel

Lucas Joel was EARTH's 2015 summer intern.

Joel was EARTH’s 2015 summer science writing intern and is now a freelance science writer. He has a master's in paleontology from the University of California, Riverside. Based out of Ann Arbor, Mich., he ventures often to the sandstone cliffs of Kentucky’s Red River Gorge and dreams of hiking up Mont Blanc in the French Alps. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 06:00

Did you know ...

EARTH only uses professional science journalists and scientists to author our content?  In this era of fake news and click-bait, EARTH offers factual and researched journalism. But EARTH is a non-profit magazine, and at least 10 times more people read EARTH than pay for it. As advertising revenues across the media decline, we need your help to ensure that we can continue bringing you the reliable and well-written coverage of earth science you know and love. Our goal is not only to inform our readers, but to inform decision makers across the economic and political spectrum about the science of our planet. So, we need your help. By becoming a subscriber or making a tax-deductible contribution to support EARTH, you can fund our writers and help make sure the world knows about our planet.

Make a contribution

Subscribe