by Ned Kahn
Aeolus was the ancient Greek god of the winds. This exhibit allows visitors to see how the formation of dunes is influenced by wind. By directing a fan with a lever, visitors can make sand dunes form and then collapse in cataclysmic avalanches. The same principle applies to the creation of snowdrifts.
The shore of Lake Michigan has spectacular and complex sand dunes that define the landscape of western Michigan.
More Information about Michigan Dunes.
Sand dunes have buried places of human habitation, such as the west Michigan ghost town of Singapore. In 1873 this was a thriving lumber town located at the western end of the Kalamazoo River just below present-day Saugatuck. By 1900 the timber was gone and the residents had left. Gradually sand and vegetation swept over the abandoned buildings. You can learn more about Singapore in On the Trail of History.
The Lake Michigan dunes of southwest Michigan are parabolic dunes. They are u-shaped and are found only in humid coastal areas. They occur when the vegetation of low-relief, linear dunes is destroyed, exposing sand to the wind. Pushed higher and higher, these giant dunes can reach upwards of 300 feet. Sand dunes are not only features of the Great Lakes shorelines, they can be found throughout inland Michigan. All dunes, even those stabilized by grasses and forests, continue to move, influenced by a relatively prevalent wind.
Dunes created by wind are made up primarily of medium to fine sand that moves and settles in cycles according to weather patterns. Michigan dunes have unique ecosystems, with vegetation that traps and stabilizes the sand, and animals that have found habitat among the dunes.
The abundance of sand, combined with other ingredients such as wind and vegetation have created the largest freshwater coastal dunes in the world. These magnificent dunes have been a part of Great Lakes scenery for more than 3,500 years.