SAUGATUCK, Mich. — Imagine taking a ride across 350 acres of sand and hardwood forest just off Lake Michigan in western Allegan County. The Saugatuck Dune Rides operated by the Starring family have been doing it for years.
The rides actually date all the way back to the 1950s, but it remains one of only two such rides in the entire state. Both Dodge and Ford modified jeeps are used as the take sandy corners between 30 and 40 miles per hour, race up and down hills, and mobile through the hardwood forecast in search of a variety of wildlife.
The rides last about 40 minutes or so and each vehicle holds up to 18 people. DC-3 tires are used and inflated to only 12 pounds of pressure to help get the vehicles effortlessly through the sand. You should see the size of the tires! Yes…these are actually tires off an aircraft.
Riders are treated to a 375 foot high dune and given the chance to walk, play, and run at the top overlooking Lake Michigan in the distance. The ride operates daily from April through October and I hear the fall color rides are fantastic. Scott Simpson has been driving for 28 years and has more than 10,000 rides under his belt. “We actually seen some waterspouts out over Lake Michigan and people got to see that” says Simpson.
This trip is a must for every tourist and even local Michiganders as well. The idea that you can tear through the sand on the dunes in an open-topped vehicle with the wind blowing through your hair and the surrounding beauty of the lakeshore and West Michigan is something everyone should experience at least once.
Most of the maintenance on the seven vehicle fleet is done by owner Linus Starring. He’s a locomotive engineer and heavy mechanic by trade in the off-season, but spends the spring, summer, and fall keeping the jeeps in top condition through the busy tourism season on the lakeshore.