Decades change landscape as town dies, lake moves

By EVAN KREAGER

Capital News Service

Buried under huge, rolling sand dunes on Michigan’s southwest coast lies a town once called Singapore.

These images from the aerial imagery library at Michigan State University document the evolution of the landscape. In 1954 the area was purchased for dune buggy rides. Tracks from the recreational activity became more established through the years.

These images from the aerial imagery library at Michigan State University document the evolution of the landscape. In 1954 the area was purchased for dune buggy rides. Tracks from the recreational activity became more established through the years.

Until about 130 years ago, this Lake Michigan port town was near what is now Saugatuck.

Founded in 1836, it was made up of 23 buildings and about 100 people, according to Kit Lane, author of “Buried Singapore: Michigan’s Imaginary Pompeii.”

It was surrounded by dense forests. But they were cut to help rebuild Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871 nearly destroyed that city almost 100 miles away.

Little did Singapore residents know that by deforesting the area, they were bringing the dunes to life. Without the trees, the sand began to bury the city, and it was soon vacated and abandoned.

Eventually, only the dunes remained.

“If an archaeological dig was done they would find traces of the settlement right where it was located,” said Jack Sheridan, a member of the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society.

An estimated 10  buildings were moved to downtown Saugatuck. Anything that was left has either been buried by the dunes or scavenged for lumber and firewood.

Over the years, the area has seen many changes.

The sand dunes in Saugatuck as they appear today. Image: Google

The sand dunes in Saugatuck as they appear today. Image: Google

The western shore of neighboring Goshorn Lake used to move up to three feet a year. Now, it is covered in vegetation and stays relatively still, but the lake’s shape has changed since the late 19th century.

In 1954, Ron Jousma purchased some of the land to offer dune buggy rides.  Since then the Saugatuck dune rides have gone through a few different owners, but the dune ride business has remained, leaving tracks across the landscape.

These images from the aerial imagery library at Michigan State University document the evolution of the landscape. In 1954 the area was purchased for dune buggy rides. Tracks from the recreational activity became more established through the years.

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