Saugatuck Michigan in Autumn

This past weekend, Hubby and I took a day trip to one of my favorite places; Saugatuck Michigan.  For many years, this small town has been a tourist destination for Chicago area folks as well as others from the Midwest.  At one time, during the 80’s and 90’s Saugatuck enjoyed a bustling summer season as well as slower winter season of visitors.  Autumn in Michigan is one of my favorite seasons with the brightly colored foliage.  Walking through town crunching leaves of golden yellow, crimson red and deep brown on a lazy Sunday afternoon brings back memories of our first love; we met in Saugatuck in 1972.

My affection for this quaint town began almost 50 years ago while in high school when I got a summer job at a local summer camp working in the kitchen and other areas around the camp. This rustic camp sited on the Kalamazoo River just outside of town offered swimming, canoeing, outdoor sports, horseback riding, hiking, archery, etc.; all the activities to help mold our youth into well adjusted contributing members of society plus it got them out of their parent’s hair for a summer break.  As a camp employee, we often spent our day off walking the mile and a half into town to spend the day away from all the kiddos and far enough away from the chance of being called back to work on our day off.

Saugatuck was a teenager’s dream town in the mid 1970’s; a laid back tourist town with just enough rough patches to entice even the best ‘goodie-2-shoes’ in our group.  There were always a few rough bikers in town along with the boat people and summer tourists.  The folks that lived in town all year long knew these summer people were the lifeblood of town, an economic boost to last the year, and these locals would put up with the inconvenience of the summer people’s idiosyncrasies in order to make it through the winter months when the tourist population plummeted.

Saugatuck is still a laid back town with many artist’s studios, plenty of touristy shops, picket fence lined walks, quaint vintage houses, beautiful park spaces and great places to eat. The natural beauty of Saugatuck is that it is situated on the Kalamazoo River which connects with Lake Michigan a couple nautical miles west of town.  If you happen to be a person dreaming of owning your own boat there are plenty of yachts to view along the many piers and puttering up and down the river.  This town founded in the 1800’s has a charm not found in modern towns.

Several weekends a year, the artists in town sponsor a gallery stroll.  This year I was still in Texas and we missed the gallery stroll weekend event by one week but the day we went the galleries were still open and thriving. One of our favorite artists, James Brandess keeps a gallery on Main Street with beautiful oil on canvas work that he reproduces as cards, postcards, etc.  We enjoyed visiting with James and recalling the past 30 years we’ve collected his works.

The dappled shade, decorative pumpkins and leaf strewn sidewalks let you know autumn is finally here.  Although the colors have not peaked just yet, our day was sunny and delightfully crisp.  We walked along the streets, stopped into the galleries, visited with some of our favorite artists, enjoyed a quick lunch and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

The sunny weather contributed to help make it a perfect day to stroll around Saugatuck and take pleasure in reminiscing, checking out what had changed, who moved their shops where, and in general reliving a bit of that teenage wanderlust.

On the way into and out of town we noticed some color in the trees but not the full fall color we hoped for.  Stopping at a local beach the dune grass is still green but the trees lining the roads are beginning to color.  Autumn in Michigan is one of my favorite experiences.


  1. Sounds wonderful. I just love the names – Saugatuck, Kalamazoo River. Fairy tales could be built around those. Autumn is almost full on here but not quite, still plenty of green.


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