Enjoy, but respect, our beautiful Lake Michigan.

Submitted by: Ryan McGrath feature photo and bio photo by Ryan J. Bolger (ryanjbolger.com)

What an amazing place these dunes of ours! It took me a long time to gather the respect these dunes are worthy of. I was born and raised here, but did not discover the uniqueness of our environment until I left. I lived for a year on the coast in Uruguay. A Beach town called Punta Del Diablo in the department of Rocha. I returned for the fourth of July in 2010. When I walked over our dunes upon my return it was clear this was my home and I’d never leave. One thing I learned in my travels and was able to bring home with me was the sport of surfing. To my surprise we often have decent surf conditions. We often have beautiful, surfable waves. It is the subject of waves that brings me to my point. With waves comes one of the quiet dangers of our great lake. Rip currents. 


Ryan surfing in Punta Del Diablo


Rip currents are (via wikipedia: Rip currents can be hazardous to people in the water. Swimmers who are caught in a rip and who do not understand what is going on, and who may not have the necessary water skills, may panic, or exhaust themselves by trying to swim directly against the flow of water. Because of these factors, rips are the leading cause of rescues by lifeguards at beaches, and rips are the cause of an average of 46 deaths by drowning per year in the United States.)

I once experienced the dangers of rip currents first hand. I was walking along the shores on a mild day with waves. Two men were walking in the water. I wondered if they realized they were near rip currents. When I returned from my walk there was only one man where before there were two. The remaining man began to ask for help as his father-in-law had been swept out. I dove in for the man, and struggled to get him to shore. By the time I got him in, rescue had been called. Once on shore, I gave CPR until the man began to breathe. Rescue soon arrived and rushed him to the hospital. Though I gave him my all, the man sadly passed away. Leaving behind his family, including a new born grand daughter. 

As waves break and increase the water pressure near the shore, the pressure will find a way to be released. This pressure release is what creates rip currents. When caught in a rip current many swimmers will try, naturally, to swim to shore. This is a mistake as you will be fighting the rip current. Your best plan when trapped is to swim sideways along the shore until released. Please be aware of rip currents. They are strong hidden danger. The lake is powerful and demands respect. While the waves may not be large, even small waves can create a rip current. Keep an eye on children in the water as rip currents can even occur very close to shore. As summer approaches, enjoy our dunes, but remember to respect our Lake and it’s dangers.