Black Bears, Fat Men, and Mt. Baldhead

Black Bears, Fat Men, and Mt. Baldhead

Mt. Baldhead. It was the home of big black bears and the place where Native Americans regularly danced on its "bald head."

A living dune, it was also moving slowly eastward, threatening to choke off the river and flood the village. People came from miles around by cart and horseback to see it and climb it.

In fact, nothing contributed more to forming Saugatuck's early reputation for adventure than did this great dune called "Mt. Baldhead." In 1870 the Fat Man's Association of Allegan announced its intention to climb the "bald head" or "die in the attempt."

The purchase of the dune in 1884 by the Village of Saugatuck was part of a plan to promote the village as a tourist attraction. Consequently, the new "Mt. Baldhead Park" and surrounding area came to be an even grander attraction for sightseers, campers, and cottagers. Nearby hotels advertised "views of Mt. Baldhead," and the park's opening was celebrated with an official ceremony at the top, accompanied by the Douglas Village Band. Souvenir stands, restaurants, a tavern, photo studios, Indian guides - and even slot machines soon cropped up in Mt. Baldhead's shadows. The romance of the great dune was given a boost when it was promoted as a site for weddings. A couple from Fennville tied the knot there on September 17, 1884.

A forty-foot high observatory tower at its peak was erected by a Chicagoan in 1884, and soon thereafter the first stairway to the top was completed. No more shoes full of sand.

The majestic golden dune had been conquered. Its eastern migration had been halted by a series of fences and the planting of trees. Its beautiful smooth pate became a forest. Gone were the black bears and ceremonial dancing.

Thousands, however, still climb the 282 steps up to see the heavenly panorama from its summit.

A wedding anyone? I do, I do!

Black Bears, Fat Men, and Mt. Baldhead
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