North Manitou Island is fifteen thousand acres of wilderness located in the middle of Lake Michigan. Visitors to this Michigan island get to experience various outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, identifying wildlife, exploring the island village and ghost towns, finding inland lakes, and learning the stories of the islands people and its history.


Native Americans were living on North Manitou Island by 1000 BCE and conceivably as early as 11,000 to 8000 BCE. The island is one of the richest archaeological spots in the Lakeshore, especially along the cliffs at the northern end of the island. The Woodland Period (600 BCE to 1620 CE) is the most distinct period of cultural occupation and activity on the island and is marked by several substantial sites.

There is a rich history of logging on the island as it was an advantageously located source of wood for steam ship roving the Great Lakes. Early logging history of North Manitou Island revolves around on a wood dealer by the name of Nicholas Pickard who landed on the island in 1844-1846. By 1857 he was the largest land owner on the island and he constructed wooding docks at several locations including the town of Crescent.

Several other loggers landed on the island throughout it’s history and by 1860 it was a small “melting pot” of immigrants. Its population was 269 with 56 households. The first school was built in 1895 and could seat thirty-six students. North Manitou acted as weigh station where people and their goods were unloaded to await a transfer to other boats bound for different destinations.

Things to Do

North Manitou Island is the perfect place for visitors who enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, hunting, swimming, and exploring.

Camping- There is a small campground on the island with eight designated campsites, two fire rings, and one outhouse. Camping is permitted in the wilderness areas of the island, but open fires in these areas are not allowed. Campers on the island enjoy the solitude and beauty of the island while listening to the gently lapping waves of Lake Michigan.

Hiking- Hikers on North Manitou island enjoy twenty-three miles of maintained trails. These trails offer paths through impressive stands of maple and beech trees, old farms, and along the cliffs overlooking Lake Michigan. The terrain of North Manitou Island is gentle and easy allowing even the most inexperienced of hikers an easy time traveling the trails.

Swimming- Visitor to island enjoy the gentle waves of Lake Michigan when swimming along the shore.

Exploring the Animal and Plant Life of North Manitou- Visitors interested in exploring and studying the wildlife of the island will find diverse habitats on it is various stretches of beaches and wilderness areas.

Exploring the History or North Manitou- History buffs visiting the island will enjoy exploring the North Manitou Village and the ghost town of Crescent. The remaining buildings of North Manitou Island are connected with the US Life-Saving Station, Cottage Row, and the Manitou Island Association. While the ghost town of Crescent is uninhabited, North Manitou Village is still home to several inhabitants. Visitors should respect the s privacy of those living on the island.

North Manitou Lake- Hikers on North Manitou Island can take several different trails to Lake Manitou which is about two-and-half miles from the village. Visitors to the lake can camp and fish on the lake.

Educational Opportunities

Field Trips- Field trips to Sleeping Bear Dunes are a great way for students to learn outside of the classroom.

Teacher-Ranger-Teacher Program­- This program allows teachers to spend a summer working as a park ranger at Sleeping Bear Dunes, and then take the lessons learned at the park back to the classroom for more effective teaching.

Distance-Learning- Several distance learning courses are available for teacher to set up for their students.

Wilderness Ambassador Youth Program- High school students spend a week in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, learning skills that can be used in the wilderness, furthering their knowledge in conservational stewardship, and performing volunteer service.

Junior Ranger Program- Kids learn about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park and how they can help protect it.

The Artist in Residence Program- Participants of the program must be writers, composers, and visual artists such as photographers. The program gives participants the opportunity to study and capture Sleeping Bear Dunes in whatever artistic medium they work with. Each work of art must work to advance the park’s mission

Special Events

North Manitou Island leads a deer hunt every year to help keep the deer population under control and preserve the native vegetation of the island.

9922 Front Street, Empire, MI 49630, Phone: 231-326-4700, Map

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