Ferry Your RV Across Lake Michigan On The SSBadger

Ferry Your RV Across Lake Michigan On The SSBadger

Being the driver on a road trip is not easy. When you are driving an RV there is even more responsibility and attention needed. Wouldn’t it be great to have a four-hour break and still arrive at your destination? If traveling from one side of Lake Michigan to the other is on your travel plans, booking a spot on the SS Badger can shave off three hours and about 500 miles off the 1,000 mile journey around the lake. As an added plus you get to bypass Chicago traffic on the lower loop and save the white-knuckle drive over the Mackinac Bridge on the northern loop.

The SS Badger is a coal-powered steamship ferry that was originally designed and used to haul railroad cars across the lake. Commissioned by the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad company at a cost of five million dollars, it was launched in 1952. It was built in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and named for the University of Wisconsin mascot

It is the only coal powered ferry still transporting vehicles of all sizes across the lake, and even earned distinction as a national engineering landmark for the propulsion system. It also has been named a National Landmark. It went into service in the 1950s, was moored in 1990 and re-envisioned in 1991 for a new role in Lake Michigan crossings, connecting a new generation with the car ferry tradition of the Great Lakes.

The ship is more than 400 feet long and built to haul 180 vehicles and 600 passengers. On any given passage, RVs, sedans, semi-tractor trailers and motorcycles will find space. It travels at about 18 miles per hour and makes almost 500 trips during its operations from May through October.

While transporting vehicles was the primary purpose for design, accommodating passengers is also a priority. Passengers can nap in staterooms or spend the journey on the upper deck enjoying the view and the sun on the forward deck, or watching movies, playing bingo or testing their skill level in the arcade. Onboard passengers also have access to four dining and bar choices, shopping, and even a museum. Guided tours of the boat are also available.

The ferry travels from Manitowoc, Wisconsin to Ludington, Michigan (or vice versa) and returns daily from mid-May through October. This is a 60-mile, four-hour crossing.

Fares for RVs is based on the length of the RV. A van camper would cost about $170 for a round trip. Other RVs are charged $7 per foot and the ferry can accommodate all sizes of RVs. There is also a passenger charge of $62 for seniors and active military and $69 for adults. Fares are also broken down by age.

Traveling in what is called the Shoulder Season, between May 20 - June 10 or September 7 -October 10 is less expensive than travelling in the peak of the summer, with about $5 - $10 reduction in fares.

One of the operational procedures that is different for the SS Badger is that passengers are not required to park their own vehicles on the freight deck. Think of it like valet parking for an RV – on a boat. Passengers are also not allowed to stay in their rig during the trip. Pets may stay in the RV or in a kennel on the parking area.

Lake Michigan is one of the few Great Lakes that borders four states and the only one of the five lakes to be totally within the United States. It is the third largest Great Lake by surface area, totaling 22,404 square miles, and the sixth largest fresh water lake in the world. It measures 1,180 cubic miles in volume, making it the second-largest of the Great Lakes in this category.

Being in the middle of one of the Great Lakes is a unique experience. Water is all around you and the shorelines disappear. The Lake Michigan coast is often referred to as the “Third Coast” because of the expansive shoreline and prevalence of beaches.

When your travels take you from Wisconsin to Michigan or in the opposite direction, plan for a relaxing trip on this famous piece of nautical history. After all, isn’t enjoying the ride one of the perks of getting there?

Jun 14th 2021 Lois Tomaszewski

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