Lake Michigan is the only one of the five Great Lakes that is entirely sheltered by the United States; the other inland Seas also share a border with Canada. Michi Gami, the Ojibwa (Chippewa) word for "large lake," forms the west coast of the Lower Peninsula and much of the southern coast of the Upper Peninsula, from Menominee at the Wisconsin border eastward to the Straits of Mackinac, where its waters meet Lake Huron.
The third largest Great Lake has a water surface area of 22,300 square miles, and it contains numerous islands, notably the Beaver Island archipelago and the North and South Manitou Islands off the coast of the "Little Finger" region of Michigan's mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula. The Manitou Islands are a part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. In addition to its namesake sand dunes and challenging dune climb, the Great Lakes park is noted for spectacular views along the 7.5-mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, as well as a choice of hiking trails.
Lake Michigan beaches boast several important dune regions, from Sleeping Bear south to the Nordhouse Dunes at Ludington, and Warren Dunes State Park near the Indiana state line. The Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon features exhibits and nature program that explore and explain the importance of the Great Lake region and its natural resource.
Michigan's western Great Lakes region benefits from the "lake effect" caused by the large body of its namesake water, which creates a favorable environment for growing a wealth of agricultural products. The state is a leader in many crops including blueberries, cherries, asparagus, and grapes for juice and wine: orchards and vineyards are especially successful along Lake Michigan.
Nearly four dozen lighthouses stand on the beaches of Lake Michigan as reminders of the importance of the centuries-old shipping industry, a story told well at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven. The replica square topsail sloop Friends Good Will offers outings from the museum for a taste of 19th century sailing; the Tall Ship Manitou out of Traverse City also offers daily sails in season.
One additional benefit shared all along the state's western beaches memorable sunsets that drop into the Great Lake Michigan.
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