Lake Michigan drownings

So it seems every summer here in West Michigan, the news is full of stories of swimmers drowning in Lake Michigan. The lake is big, has rip currents and and longshore currents, and people just don’t expect a lake to be as dangerous as an ocean. Confident swimmers go out and don’t expect it do be so treacherous. We’re already at 23 drownings in Lake Michigan, up 58% from last year (and I thought last year had an insane number of drownings). And that doesn’t even count the number of rescues. I’ve gone out to the lake a few times this year, and with all the rain we got this spring, there is basically no beach at the places we usually like to go. And I was out there today, the waves were huge (despite not much wind). There’s no way anyone should be putzing around in water that choppy.

Do other parts of Lake Michigan have this many drownings? Chicago? Wisconsin? Is West Michigan uniquely positioned along the lake to make it especially dangerous to swim? Or maybe these drownings are a somewhat-recent phenomenon.

Happens every year, tho this year’s numbers are WAY up. Couple of years back I saw 2 out of 3 folk rescued at South Haven. A guy went in after his kids when they were in trouble. The kids made it, he didn’t. The kids had NO BUSINESS being out in waves that high.

Really wild the way the beaches are gone. There used to be a beautiful wide beach up near Whitehall/Montague. Few years back it was maybe 10’ wide. This year, it is gone.

The drownings are definitely worse in the SE side of the lake, due to the prevailing winds. And if you stay on shore and try to climb the dunes, the freaking sand will suck you in! :smiley:

But the drownings - just a bunch of stupid people overestimate their ability and underestimate the lake.

Chicago’s had a few, but I don’t know if it’s more than usual. That lake is high though. The water washes over the piers, and there’s ladders poking up from what looks like nowhere.
The waves are just angry looking.

I will never forget the time I saw a dead kid pulled out of Lake Michigan. At least, I hope I don’t.

A friend and I went to Oak Street Beach to play volleyball at the public courts, the first and last time I’ve done that. There was a commotion off away on the beach but we didn’t pay too much attention. Then, the police boats showed up, later, the helicopter. An ambulance pulled onto the beach. After too long, the ambulance backed up to the water and one of the boats beached. His remains were put into the ambulance and it drove off. He was probably 12-15 years old, about 15 years ago. I won’t try to describe or recall the family’s anguish. No more volleyball that day.

It’s a powerfully emotional thing. This body of water and its beaches that gave so much enjoyment to thousands that day and to millions that summer can and does kill. A thousand feet north or south and no one would know what happened here. I’ve swum in Lake Michigan hundreds of times and sat beside it hundreds more. I love Lake Michigan. But it kills. Can I trust it?

Spent the first 25 years of my life in Milwaukee and I can’t recall any Lake Michigan drownings though I’m sure they did occur. There were a handful of beaches that people visited in the summer but pretty much nobody went in the water. Mainly because it was so friggin cold, rocky, and had a fast drop off.

Lake Erie has its share too (36 last year IIRC). Growing up in Cleveland, though, I remember a lot more warnings about not going out on the ice in the winter; Erie is shallow and expecting the ice to hold your weight is not a wise move.

It looks like 80% of the Lake Huron deaths this year have occurred on the Ontario side of the lake, which is analogous to western Michigan in some way, I suppose.

Lake Michigan, where sometimes even the beach will try to kill you.

Lake Michigan eats its wounded and unwary.

Still no sign of Sofia over 9 years later.

I avoid going out in small boats there.

I still swim in the Great Water, as I have for over 60 years now. Cautiously.

And, Lake Superior, it is said, never gives up her dead… :eek:

It’s the lake they call Gitcheegoomee.

At least in here in the Lower Peninsula we can go play around in the kiddie pool of the great lakes*. Traverse bay isn’t without danger of course. But the waves don’t have room to get too big.

  • I realized just before posting it might sound like I’m taking about Lake St. Clair, which I suppose fits as well.

around 50% of people who drown are drunk so it could be more people are drinking at the beach

I don’t know if drownings are up or down in Chicago, but it is never an unusual item to hear on the news. Many times, the person trying to rescue the original victim is the one to drown. No good deed and all that…

This is Mitcheegoomee we’re talking about though. Not as deep and cold as Gitcheegoomee, but deep enough and cold enough to keep her dead too, as my earlier link makes clear.


This has been a season of multiple rescues too, kids getting blown out to sea on rafts. One mom was in the water with two kids on pool floats one a giant rubber ducky. She let go of ducky to attend the other kid and rubber ducky with little kid was quickly out of reach and heading out. It took a paddle boarder and a nearby boat to rescue him. The kid was panicking and fell off his float but was picked up.

Another girl was blown away on a float o to the shipping lanes in the Straits of Mackinaw and one of the ferries diverted to rescue her.

I stupidly watched my kid play without a a vest on in the rough waves up to her neck near Empire Mi when I was jolted by the fact that she could disappear before my eyes. The sands will shift, the currents get sneaky. I hauled my ass in the water with her. Still should’ve put on a swim vest.

There are drownings in the Caribbean every time we vacation there. The water is warm and the currents gentle. Many of the drownings are secondary to heart attack.

That’s a tragic story, I’m glad you did your part.

Inflatables aren’t allowed at Chicago public beaches. People drift away, weak swimmers get over confident, kids can flip upside down.

I heard a bit on the radio this morning that Lake Michigan drownings are up 80% (27 vs 15) from this time last year.

Chicago? Oh, yeah. Every summer during the hottest weather, we have 2 or 3 a week. Most occur because people ignore the warnings and swim anyway. Others occur because people who cannot swim are out on the water in small boats with no life vests on. In other words, most occur because of “user error”.

Last week, a teenager ignored warning that were all over the news and went into a choppy, treacherous lake that had waves up to 6 feet. He drowned. The angry mother, I kid you not, said, “I want answers!” The “answer” is that your son was an idiot.