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A charming beach town located where the Black River meets Lake Michigan, South Haven offers historical adventures alongside a dense and expansive recreational and commercial waterfront.

Best suited for: Professionals engaged in sustainable harbor issues, recreation and tourism specialists, maritime district and walkable community city planners, heritage educators, history buffs.


  • Federally-authorized commercial harbor, transitioned mainly to recreational use
  • Marinas, private slips, and public boat access along the Black River
  • Home to many Chicago-area vacationers
  • 3,100 feet of maintained federal channel
  • 4,300 feet of maintained breakwaters, piers, and revetments
  • Designated beach town along historic West Michigan Pike
  • Harbor Walk celebrating South Haven’s maritime heritage
  • Authentic maritime district connected to downtown
  • Drawbridge providing up-river boat access


Tour will take place from 12–7 p.m.

DEPART: Amway Grand Plaza Hotel (1-hour drive; boxed lunches provided for the road).

ARRIVE: St. Basil and explore the expansive Lake Michigan shoreline and South Beach Public Park.

TOUR: Harbor Walk and learn about South Haven’s waterfront heritage.

TALK: Charter fishermen and the local Steelheaders about sport fishing.

MEET: South Haven Municipal Marina – Southside. Discuss current waterfront infrastructure issues affecting the sustainability of South Haven’s harbor with the city manager, city planners and the harbormaster.

VISIT: Michigan Maritime Museum, centerpiece of the Maritime District, located at the drawbridge along the Black River. Includes dockside tour of topsail sloop Friends Good Will.

  • Six working, passenger vessels celebrating Michigan’s Great Lakes Heritage
  • Five buildings showcasing Michigan’s maritime history
  • Current main exhibit: World War II on the Great Lakes
  • Restored 1939 commercial fishing tug and fisheries history exhibit
  • Authentic boat-building workshop and U.S. Coast Guard boathouse
  • U.S. Life-Saving Service building and Lightkeeper’s House

RELAX: Enjoy afternoon refreshments with a view of the water before heading back to Grand Rapids.

Anticipated field trip presenters include staff and volunteers from the City of South Haven planning department and harbormaster, Michigan Maritime Museum, Sea Grant, Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association, and the Historic Association of South Haven.


The South Haven tour will be predominantly on foot with frequent stops. Participants should bring comfortable walking shoes and a water bottle. Expect to encounter uneven sidewalks, staircases, and sandy beaches.


Sandy Bryson has served as an academic staff member at Michigan State University, a board member of South Haven’s Michigan Maritime Museum, a member of the Program Advisory Committee of the Great Lakes Boat Building School in Cedarville, and a member of the Traditional Small Craft Association.

Dave Knight owns a consulting firm specializing in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway maritime industry. He was the editor of Great Lakes Seaway Review magazine for 17 years.

Brandon Schroeder is an educator with Michigan State University Extension. He works with coastal communities and businesses in northeast Michigan to apply science-based knowledge to address Great Lakes issues. His Sea Grant Extension expertise and efforts involve fisheries science, biodiversity conservation, sustainable coastal tourism development, and Great Lakes education; and he currently serves in a co-leadership role for the Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage network and partnership.

Patti Montgomery Reinert is the executive director of South Haven’s Michigan Maritime Museum. She has served as president of the South Haven Convention Visitors Bureau, on the board of the Southwest Michigan Tourist Council, and as chair of the Parks Commission for the City of South Haven.