WASHINGTON – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was named the Most Beautiful Place in America by viewers of ABC’s Good Morning America today. Online voters selected the park from a list of ten finalists, all of them recently featured on the show.
Jim Madole of Grand Rapids, Mich., nominated the park – 71,000 acres that includes towering dunes, woods and trails along the shore of Lake Michigan – as the most beautiful place in America: “It is peaceful and serene, a place for gazing out into the world, night or day, and realizing that the universe is truly a magical, majestic mystery, and humans are just a very small part of it all,” he wrote in his submission. “Here at Sleeping Bear, I sit in awe and wonder at the perfection of Mother Nature.”
Word of the national tribute – and Madole’s prose – drew a smile from National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is something of a hidden gem in the national park system. It’s off the beaten path and perhaps not as well known as some other national parks. Jim describes perfectly why Americans have set it aside for the enjoyment of this and future generations.”
Telephone lines at the park were jammed minutes after the Good Morning America announcement. “I think we’ve been ‘discovered’,” park superintendent Dusty Shultz said. “We actually have more than a million visitors a year but Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore still retains the amazing qualities that make it the most beautiful place in America. I’ve been here for ten years and every day reveals a new aspect of its beauty.”
The area is dominated by massive sand dunes perched on glacial ridges 450 feet above the blue waters of Lake Michigan. Two large islands just off shore are part of the park and offer tranquility and seclusion. The national lakeshore preserves pristine beaches, quiet rivers, forested hills, and clear inland lakes. Local visitors say the park’s Lake Michigan waters are clear to a depth of 30 feet.
The park keeps cultural landscapes alive in stories of American Indian, maritime, agricultural, and recreational history, and preserves nationally recognized maritime structures and artifacts from the U.S. Life-Saving Service era.
Alberto Orso produced the segment for Good Morning America and said they did not set out to feature national parks although Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Grand Teton National Park and Point Reyes National Seashore made the final list of ten beautiful places. “It was an open call to viewers to send pictures of places that meant something special to them. We had thousands of entries, lots of them about national parks and narrowed the field to ten amazing places,” he said.
Orso said the list of finalists includes recognizable locations, “But we also wanted to highlight some of the places that aren’t always talked about and that are a little less seen and heard.” Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore received 22 percent of the nearly 100,000 votes cast in online voting.
Good Morning America’s top ten Most Beautiful Places in America:
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- Grand Teton National Park
- Point Reyes National Seashore
- Cape Cod, Mass.
- Asheville, N.C.
- Aspen, Colo., Destin, Fla.
- Lanikai Beach, Hawaii
- Newport, R.I.
- Sedona, Ariz.