My dogs and I love to run wooded trails several times a week. We particularly like the trails on Mackinac Island, and when we head back to town, we like to dunk into the refreshing waters of the Straits of Mackinac to cool off.
We are lucky to have this option just outside our front door. But whether you have to walk across the street, or drive some distance, there is nothing better than getting onto a sandy beach or a small cutout in the trees and into a soothing lake to cool off and remind yourself that summer is about more than ice cream and burgers.
Swimming in the Great Lakes is perhaps the ultimate perk for those who spend time Up North, but there are precautions that are wise to heed.
Your mother might once have told you to wait an hour after eating before swimming, and while this is no longer common advice, there are other precautions to take.
- Enjoy the water, but let someone know where you are and that you’re swimming. Better yet, go with a friend or as part of a group.
- Swim where others expect to find swimmers. Jumping off a dock—or a break wall—might be fun and daring, but take care not to put yourself in harm’s way where boaters might not anticipate swimmers.
- A most distressing natural phenomenon is the rip tide, caused when breaking waves combine with wind and the slope of a beach. A rip tide will not push a swimmer under, but will pull even a strong swimmer farther from shore. Panic is intuitive here, but also dangerous. Swimmers caught in a rip tide, which can occur at Sleeping Bear Dunes or Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, or plenty of places in between, should instead, according to National Park Service advice, swim parallel to shore, or float until the current subsides. Then you can make for shore.
If you are on shore and see someone caught in a riptide, shout out directions or throw something that floats. Avoid trying to swim out to the person. Call 911 if necessary.
Swimming in the Great Lakes is a great part of living Up North, but swimming smart is the safest way to enjoy this bonus of geography.