If you're in Empire and looking for a break, take the short drive out to the Empire public beach. This is located on Lake Michigan, between South Bar Lake and Lake Michigan. Here is a chance to see nature at it's geologic best.
Don't expect the bare rocky slopes of western parks. Around the Great Lakes, geologic processes are a work in progress and moving at a faster rate (hard rock slows things down compared to sand). The public beach with the lake behind it is caused by the flow of the current through South Bar Lake and the current of Lake Michigan. At one time, South Bar would not have existed. It's mouth to Lake Michigan would have to the north, flowing westward. Lake Michigan's shore current flows south. When the big lakes current is stronger than the smaller ones, a sand bar will close off the outlet. Water builds up and it over flows. Over time, this process continues, forming a higher and higher sand bar between both waters. As the bar grows, the smaller current pushes on down the shore to get ahead of the stronger current. Eventually, a long bar exists between the two currents and a lake forms behind the bar. If the bar is blocked by a bluff, i.e., Empire Bluff the bar will become a permanent dam and will grow to get over the bluff, or find another way out. The process is partially accountable for the series of larger lakes, Little Platte, Platte , Rush, Long and Crystal that are inland from Lake Michigan around Point Betsie.
South Manitou Island is located off the coast of Leland. You'll need a boat or to use the boat service that daily travels out. There is day service, so you can go out and spend several hours visiting the lighthouse and seeing the other sights. There is also a tram that will take you to the far end of the island to see the historic ruins and cemetery. Don't be late, or you'll miss the boat home. There is also a ranger program into the lighthouse.
If you're a camper, you can stay on the island and take your time seeing the beaches and wildlife that inhabit it.
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