Historic Photos of Lake Michigan's Coastal Dunes

Help us track how Michigan's coastal sand dunes have changed over time by submitting historic photographs

Historic Photos

We are looking for the oldest pictures of Lake Michigan’s coastal dunes that you have, preferably ones that are 15 years old or older. Feel free to submit as many historic dune photographs as you can find. 

Not sure where to start? Go dust off those old photo albums. Ask your parents, grandparents, friends or family if they have any historic photos of these landmarks that they'd be willing to share. 

Here is a step-by-step guide for this activity:

Click here to download and print these instructions

  1. Locate historic photos of Lake Michigan's coastal dunes that are at least 15 years old

  2. To the best of your ability, try to pinpoint the exact location of the pictures. You can do this by identifying permanent landscape features nearby (e.g. docks, lighthouses etc) or by using GPS coordinates. Both Google and Apple Maps on your smartphone have the ability to easily show you the GPS coordinates of a location. Here's how you would go about that:
    • Open either Google or Apple maps on your smartphone device.
    • Type in the location of where the picture was taken into the search bar. For example, typing in "Silver Lake State Park" will take you over to the location of the park. 
    • Then, to the best of your ability, press and hold on the map where your photo was taken. 
    • Google and Apple maps will drop a pin and come up with the latitude and longitude position. It'll look something like this: (43.6727, -86.5215)
    • Need more help? Click here for Google Maps (Androids) or here for Apple Maps (iPhone). 

  3. Upload your historic photos with their location using the form below. Your historical photo will likely be a physical copy, so please take a clean picture of it with a high-quality cell phone or scan it. Click here if you need instructions on how to scan on Windows, Mac and even from your iPhone and Android! 

  4. If you or your organization has more than 5 repeat photograph examples or if you just have followup questions, please email the project team at dunes@environmentalcouncil.org.

It's that simple! By completing this process, not only will you be helping scientists study and preserve the dunes, but by submitting your historic photos you will also be entered in our photo contest with the chance to win a signed copy of the New York Times bestseller What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. You will also get a chance to win a free ticket to the dunes summit this fall and a framed copy of your photograph. 

If you have any further questions, please email dunes@environmentalcouncil.org or call 517-999-041

Click here to submit historic photographs of Lake Michigan's coastal dunes


Want to help even more? By conducting repeat photography with your historic dune photos, you can participate in a scientific study of the dunes! 

As part of an ongoing study about historic changes to Michigan’s coastal dunes, an active research team is recruiting citizen scientists to help document landscape change through the use of repeat photography*.

*Repeat Photography - the practice of taking multiple photographs of the same subject, from the same location, at different times. 

Taken in Van Buren State Park in 1997.   Same site taken from the same place in 2014

Click here to learn how to do your own scientific study of the dunes!

Financial assistance for this project was provided, in part, by the Coastal Zone Management Program, Office of the Great Lakes, MDNR, through a grant from the NOAA, and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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