Dune Wonder

IN THE ZONE

Hike across Great Lakes dunes from the water, and you'll encounter four distinct changes in landscape and microclimate, and different plant and animal species associated with each of the four zones:

Beach The level shore where water meets the sand is the happenin' place for humans when the weather's right. But seasonal extremes, waves, wind and rapid evaporation hit hard here, so only the hardiest (or, at least, persistent) plants and animals—gulls, flesh flies, sea rocket and digger wasps among them—can hang here long.

Foredune Here's where the grasses grow—a good thing because they stabilize the dunes. The eastern hognose snake and wolf spiders live here too, but chances are good you'll see only their respective tiptoe and swishy tracks on a summer visit; they abhor the heat and typically burrow underground until the evening's cool temps beckon.

Trough Interdunal ponds are the hallmark of these low-lying landscapes, and though the standing shallows may appear stagnant, they teem with life—cattails, dragonflies, spring peepers, Fowler's toads and garter snakes. When the ponds dry out, stands of jack pine take over.

Backdune Farthest from the waterline, the backdunes provide an important shelter for birds migrating along the shore; they're vibrant with hemlocks, oak, maple and beech trees, as well as mosses, ferns and wildflowers. Thanks to the decay of leaves, plants and animal matter, the top layer of soil here is fertile, but just beneath lies dune sand, so erosion occurs easily, and backdunes are considered extremely sensitive habitat.

Article Comments

  • carllef

    I was raised in Chicago a long time ago. My parents were teachers. We spent vacations in the Honor-Beulah area at my grandparent’s home on Platte Lake. Many years have passed, and I still return to the area every summer for a reunion with my cousins. I often stay at the Honor Motel, which looks basically the same. I have a picture of me at age 10 standing outside the Honor Post office with my grandfather. I am 61 now, and am a retired educator. I heard the podcast about this magazine recently, as found the website.

    Enjoy, one and all!

    Carl Lefevre
    Point Pleasant, New Jersey