Saugatuck Dune Rides in southwest Michigan
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SAUGATUCK, Mich. — Singapore, Michigan was — for all practical purposes — buried by sand in the 1870s after the area’s trees were sent to Chicago for a massive rebuild immediately after the "Great Chicago Fire" of 1871. Town leaders didn't know it at the time, but the deforesting opened the gates for sand to fill the town so quickly, that it was eventually abandoned. What was once a bustling town along Lake Michigan became a ghost town.
In the years that followed, the sand buried every inch of Singapore, and now, all that's left are dunes, held from continuously shifting by grass planted years ago.
Saugatuck Dune Rides became a business in the 1950s, and daily 40-minute adventures take guests through hairpin turns, sliding sand roads, and, eventually, a trip to the tallest point in the area to get a beautiful view of the shore surrounding Lake Michigan.
All the while, a ride on these 1970s-era vehicles provides you with a history lesson on Singapore, the lake culture and the folklore of the area.
Paul Dykens lives in Taiwan, where he teaches and raises a family. For him, coming back to his home area every summer and driving the dune rides is a thrill. He loves the experience of taking people from all over the world up and down the dunes.
"I think the highlight for a lot of people is getting out on the tallest dune, 300 feet up," Dykens said. "People can get out of the buggy and explore the dune for a few minutes. Kids run down dunes and inevitably do face-planting in the sand."
A teacher by nature, Dykens enjoyed telling our group in the buggy about the little-known and often-overlooked story of the area.
"Every driver has a story to tell. We have a deep well of information we all draw from," Dykens said. "There's some historical aspects. There is a ghost town, Singapore, that I like to talk about. I grew up in Holland just north of here, so a little bit of a connection to the land here."
The ride is fun, with a roller coaster-feel at times and a wonderful breeze as you go up and down the sand dunes along the lake. You'll need to sign a waiver, reserve a place in advance and be prepared to scream a little bit as you fly around the sand.
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