If you live in Muskegon, Saugatuck, Tawas, Flint, Marquette or anywhere in between... Summertime in Michigan means taking advantage of our state's beautiful freshwater lakes. Sinking your toes in the sand and relaxing.

Thinking about vacations and beach life is what we live for in winter, but the Great Lakes can be very dangerous for even the most experienced swimmers.

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Great Lakes flag warning system at state-designated swimming beaches

Michigan's Department of Natural Resources reports, last year, 108 people drowned on the Great Lakes. Over 1,100 have drowned since 2010. Those statistics led to a more intense, informative flag warning system. Even a new law.

Credit: Michigan DNR
Credit: Michigan DNR

The Double Red Flag is the newest edition to the group. Here's what each color means for swimmers:

  • Double Red Flag means water access is closed. A new law prohibits water access when these two flags are flying together. Think dangerous rip currents/conditions, a rescue in progress or water contamination.
  • Red Flag (single) means water is very rough, high hazard. It's "recommended" to stay on the beach, but not against the law if you choose to get in the water.
  • Yellow Flag means moderate risk of rough waters/currents.
  • Green Flag means waters are calm but keep an eye out -- it's Michigan after all. The weather can change in a heartbeat.

If you haven't considered the possibility of being caught in a rip current on one of the Great Lakes, there are tips from the DNR that will help you survive. You can also find all of Michigan's State Parks with Swim Areas + Great Lakes Swim Beaches.

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