Rip Current Season-Beware

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The 4th of July is usually a fun time of year with warm weather and summer vacation. Many people will take to the lake for time on the beach and cool off in the refreshing water of Lake Michigan. However, caution is advised when it comes to safety in this summer ritual.


Many of the larger communities on the Lake Michigan shore have piers adjacent to the state park campgrounds that present a potential danger to unsuspecting swimmers.  Rip currents are simply characterized as localized pockets of water flowing in a small area near piers or physical structures that restrict the natural flow of water.  Typically on windy days, waves will build over time and push water along the shore to downwind locations.   A rip current will develop when this natural flow of water is interrupted by a physical object, like a pier, and a large amount of water builds into that area.  Eventually, the water will flow back to its natural location in the form of a rip current.

Rip currents can form between sand bars, but it is the rip currents next to piers that are the most common and dangerous to swimmers.  Much has been said about what to do if caught in a rip current.  These techniques are well proven and have saved many lives over the years.  However, not much is said or done about warning people to avoid these pier danger points.  Swimming near a pier is dangerous whether entry from the beach or jumping off a pier.  The point is that the area near a pier is no place for a swimming area in any situation.  Changing conditions, rocks and debris in the water near a pier are all good reasons to keep well away from these beautiful, but dangerous structures.

The question is posed, how close to a pier is to close.  Currently in the Grand Haven State Park, the swimming is posted with buoys to within 12 yards of the south pier.  The area within 50 yards of the pier is the most dangerous section of the entire expanse of 600 yards of State Park beach.  Why with this entire beach are people being misled that the area within 12 yards of the pier is safe to swim?

SurfGrandHaven calls on the community to urge the State Park to do the following:


  •   Relocate the two swimming buoys on the north end of the current swim area from 12 yards to 50 yards south of the pier.
  • Install a no swimming buoy in the water’s edge approximately 25 yards south of the pier.
  • Install a flag (red, yellow, green) system at the current emergency call station that is located on the beach near the former life guard stand.


We need to put an end to the tragic events that occur every summer when unsuspecting swimmers find themselves in trouble from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It is not enough to say we tried, but people don’t heed our advice.  SurfGrandHaven believes that we have not done enough and we can do more.  If you ask the victims, they will say they never knew the danger that lurks near the piers.



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