The United States Congress designated the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness (map
) in 1987 and it now has a total of 3,271 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Michigan
and is managed by the Forest Service.
Over the past 13,000 years, as the level of Lake Michigan rose and fell, winds swept the exposed sand from the lakebed into a series of rolling dunes, some reaching 140 feet in height. Most of the present dunes date back between 3,500 and 4,000 years. A wide beach lies between the waves of water and the waves of sand. Unlike the vegetation at most active sand dunes, here you'll find woody patches of juniper, stunted jack pine, some small stands of northern hardwoods, and dune marshes with wetland species such as hemlock and larch. Many of the dunes are lightly covered in dune grass. Set along approximately 7,300 feet of undeveloped shoreline, Nordhouse Dunes is the only designated Wilderness on Michigan's Lower Peninsula. A limited trail system of about 14.5 miles is minimally marked and sometimes hard to follow. The Nordhouse Dunes Trail (1.4 miles) offers the best peek at the dunes. The trails can be accessed from the nearby Lake Michigan Recreation Area on the northern boundary.