Silver Lake Sand Dunes
The Silver Lake Sand Dunes are a natural phenomenon that attracts more than a million visitors each year. Sand, sun, and fun await you at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes nestled between the shores of Lake Michigan and Silver Lake in Oceana County.
The magnificent dunes are divided into three sections, the northern area is reserved for off-road vehicles where you can test your vehicle and your sand driving skill Whether you rent or take your own vehicle this is a thrill you’ve yet to experience. The center region is for hiking, walking, or simply enjoying the beaches of Lake Michigan and Silver Lake.
The southern end is home to Mac Woods Dune Rides. Mac Woods has been here for more than 85 years allowing visitors to enjoy a 40-minute 7-mile tour of the Silver Lake Sand Dunes.
No other dune area in Michigan allows vehicle access, so be sure to plan for some ORV dune excitement. No doubt the Sand Dunes are the main attraction of Oceana County. No other dune area in Michigan allows vehicle access. Each year on April 1st when the dunes open, the parking lot is near filled, whether it be a bright, sunny spring day or a crisp "retreating-winter," possibly even snowing kind of day. And of course, October 31 can be a bittersweet "good-bye until next season" for many ORV enthusiasts.
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Visitors must pay a Silver Lake State Park entrance fee to access the dunes. See the Silver Lake State Park information page or call 231-873-3083 for more information on fees and State Park ORV rules.
Last year, the Silver Lake State Park ORV area instituted new rules. These changes are still in effect and will impact visitors who fail to meet the new standards. Entry into the ORV area will be denied for vehicles not meeting the regulations. New Rules apply to Sound Levels and Testing, The Voucher System, and Operators Licensing and Training Requirements. A complete list of current rules and regulations is available at the Michigan DNR's web site.
Sound Level Rules and Testing
In 2002, a pilot program was undertaken at Silver Lake State Park to use a static or stationary sound level test on all types of ORVs, and that program will continue. Noise levels will be checked from a twenty-inch distance from the exhaust pipe at half the vehicle's rated RPM or as detailed in the automotive specs SAE J1169, March 92 or SAE J1287, June 86. The maximum noise level permitted under these conditions will be 94 dBa which is the current limit set by the Off-Road Recreation Vehicles Act of Part 811 of 1994 PA 451. All vehicles will be required to have a muffler and spark arrester. Mufflers must contain baffles that can be confirmed by inserting a flexible, plastic rod.
Generally speaking, the guidelines for testing at "half the rate RPM" will be based on some vehicle similarities. In most cases, full-sized vehicles with "V" configured engines will be tested at 2,500 RPM and all others at 2,000 RPM. Most reverse flow mufflers will meet the spark arrester requirements, as will most turbochargers. However, straight-through mufflers, such as glass-pack designs without baffles and mechanically driven superchargers, do not qualify as adequate spark arresters.
Motorcycles and ATVs will be tested like the full-sized vehicles by placing a sound meter at a forty-five degree angle, twenty inches from the muffler exhaust pipe. In most cases, 80 cc engines will be tested at 6,000 RPM, 125 cc at 5, 000 RPM, 250 cc at 4,000 RPM and 500+ cc at 3,000 - 3,500 RPM. The Motorcycle Industry Council produces an manual detailing the standards ATVs and motorcycles must meet. A muffler that meets Environmental Acoustic Reduction (E.A.R.) standards may be considered as a viable solution for motorcycles. Most ATVs with unaltered, factory-equipped exhaust systems, that have been properly maintained, will meet the requirements. Those vehicles that have been manufactured for "closed track" use only, such as many motocross or "dirt-bike" motorcycles, will most likely not meet the requirements. This is also often true where after market installations have altered the original exhaust system in attempts to gain additional horsepower.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) introduced a voucher system during the 2000 use season as a tool to manage the long lines of ORV users waiting to enter the Silver Lake State Park on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays.
There are two types of vouchers. Dune Ready Vouchers and Parking Lot Vouchers. Dune Ready Vehicles are those that enter the Silver Lake State Park Dune Access Area from public highways and go straight into the sand dune ORV Area without the need for the parking lot / staging area. Parking Lot vouchers are for those who require a staging or parking area for their tow vehicle and / or trailer. Both types of vouchers are free to park users and are distributed from the ORV Voucher Center located at the corner of Fox and Ridge Roads, to the east of the Dune Access entry gate. The purpose of the voucher is, simply, to "hold the ORV users place in line", while staggering arrival times to avoid excessive lines.
Last year, the prohibition of alcoholic beverages was extended to encompass the Voucher Center Area. New for 2003: This year, parking vouchers will be distributed at 9 PM the day before the are used. In the past, these vouchers were distributed at 6 PM. Also, visitors are directed to look for signage along the west side of Ridge Road, near the intersection at Fox Road, for the starting point of Voucher Center lines. Vehicles will be directed to move from this point in an orderly line to gain access to the Voucher Distribution Center at the appropriate times. This will keep the line-up area for the park entrance off Fox Road clear until vouchers are actually being distributed. No voucher reservation program has been developed to date.
Operators Licensing and Training Requirements
As in years past, vehicle operators will be required to have a valid driver's license except for riders twelve years of age or older who possess a valid ORV Safety Certificate. These riders may only operate ATVs and motorcycles as the training certificate specifies, while under direct supervision of a parent or adult guardian. Driver's license or ORV Safety Training certification must be presented upon demand.
Safety is a significant issue at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. All vehicles entering the dunes must have mounted to their front bumper a 10-foot mast holding an international orange flag. With the rolling terrain, spotting a flag coming over a hill can avert collisions. The flags and masts are sold at many area businesses. Vehicles must have seat belts and passengers must be belted at all times. Drivers using their own vehicles should reduce the air pressure in their tires to 10 pounds per tire.
Park rangers patrol the park constantly and tickets are issued for violation of park rules or unsafe driving practices. Be aware that the dunes are constantly changing; a rolling hill that you drove over in the morning could be a steep cliff with a dramatic drop off by afternoon.
HAVE FUN AND PLEASE DRIVE SAFELY