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I swam Lake Michigan’s Manitou Passage on August 24, 2022 to benefit North Manitou Light House Keepers and FLOW (For Love of Water).

It was the first Manitou Passage solo swim to follow USA Swimming open water rules and received ratification by the World Open Water Swim Association.

The occasion celebrated Michigan’s fresh water and Leelanau County’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore by raising funds for two fantastic organizations intrinsically dedicated to both the water and the shoreline. An official media release is available here. I’ve documented the experience on social media via #ManitouSwim.

The 6.91-mile marathon started at Sleeping Bear Point and finished at the South Manitou Island Lighthouse. In accord with USA Swimming open water rules, I crossed the Lake Michigan waterway navigating by sight and wearing a FINA-approved (buoyancy neutral) wetsuit without any aids, such as fins, paddles or flotation devices.
A safety boat captained by Justin Acker with observer Keelan McNulty shadowed the swim, but offered me no assistance beyond extending and retrieving fluid bottles via pole. The water temperature spread in the Manitou Passage ranged from 71°F to 68 °F.

All funds raised were distributed equally to FLOW and North Manitou Light Keepers. No deductions were made to cover GoFundMe or swim-associated costs.
You can receive tax-deduction information from each organization by requesting it from me directly.

North Manitou Light Keepers is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to restore and preserve the North Manitou Shoal Lighthouse and make it and its history available to the public for education and appreciation. For more information, visit

FLOW (For Love of Water) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that serves as a Great Lakes law and policy center dedicated to ensuring the waters of the Great Lakes Basin are healthy, public, and protected for all. For more information, visit

I live in New York, was born and raised in Traverse City, and grew up swimming in Lake Michigan. I began recreational open water swim competition in 2007 and have since completed over 45 races in distances up to 10K.

Since leaving Northern Michigan, swimming in salt water has made me more fond of Michigan’s freshwater spaces.

For trivia, North Manitou Light Keepers Board Member Jake Kaberle and I rode the school bus together to Long Lake Elementary, where my 4th-grade teacher was Moomers Founder Nancy Plumber. In the 1990s, I canoed the Manitou Passage with a Traverse City high school classmate. On arrival, we were both chided by the South Manitou Island park ranger.

Located in Northwest Lower Michigan, the Manitou Passage is a Lake Michigan waterway between the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the North and South Manitou Islands.

The passage was named and first navigated by Native Americans and is steeped in Great Lakes Maritime history. The Manitou Passage has been used as a commercial shipping channel regularly since the early 1800s.

While the passage remains relatively calm in late summer, it is also historically dangerous for maritime traffic in the fall and winter seasons. As such, the waters surrounding the Manitou Passage contain the remains of over 50 shipwrecks, many of which are documented by the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve.

Lead Photo Credit: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore per CC BY 2.0 attribution

Man swims across Lake Michigan's Manitou Passage for non-profits--UpNorthLive, ABC, 7&4

TC Native Attempts First Official Open Water Swim From Sleeping Bear To South Manitou--The Leelanau Ticker


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  • Anonymous
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  • Peter Gesell
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  • Tracy Bielaczyc
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Jake Bright
Mamaroneck, NY

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