Lake Michigan Coastal Dunes
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Lake Michigan Coastal Dune Home
Introduction to Lake Michigan Coastal Dunes
Features and Types of Dunes
Wind, Sand and Coastal Dunes
Climate, Dune, Lake and Seasonal Factors
Methods, Results and Research Students
References and Links to More Information


Processes - Low Impact Skills for Coastal Dunes

People can avoid or minimize physical impacts during their activities on coastal dunes. The basic strategy is to stay away from vulnerable areas and to minimize your impacts if you must travel in vulnerable areas.

Where trails exist:

  • If an established trail is available, follow it rather than striking out on your own. By following the trail, you are concentrating human impacts in one area rather than spreading impacts over the dunes.
  • Keep to the middle of trails you walk on, even when you go uphill. On dunes, it is often easier to walk along the solid edges of the trail rather than loose sand in the center of the path, but you will widen the trail if you walk along the edges.
Person walking near eroding scarp on North Beach Park parabolic dune.
People walking near an eroding scarp on North Beach Park parabolic dune (Ottawa County, MI) accelerate undercutting and erosion in this area. There is a pathway through the trees on the ridge that allows visitors to have much less impact on the dune. (June 2004)

Where trails do not exist:

  • If you have a choice between walking on bare sand and walking through vegetation, choose the bare sand. When you damage vegetation, you are increasing dune vulnerability to erosion.
  • If you have a choice between slopes to walk on, choose the slope with the lowest angle. On steep slopes, you are likely to push more sand downslope and put more stress on vegetation than on gentle slopes.
  • If you cannot avoid a steep uphill slope, walk diagonally across the slope rather than directly uphill. You will put less stress on vegetation and soils this way.
  • Avoid walking straight up the windward slope of a dune and across the crest. Trails that are aligned with the wind can be widened and deepened by wind to form a blowout across the dune.
  • In pristine areas, disperse groups so that you do not create a new trail across the area. It would be wiser for groups of people to avoid steep slopes altogether, because you will have an impact.
  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning. Informal trails, patches of bare ground on windward slopes, and the margins of blowouts are vulnerable to erosion.

The seven principles on the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics website will give you more information on how to produce low impacts in wilderness areas, including advice on camping, going to the bathroom, washing dishes, wildlife, etc.



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Last updated 03/23/10.