Badger Across Lake Michigan

bdgrCar ferries could seldom be described as romantic. Functional, of course, and thereby lies the reason why they usually lack sentimental attachments. There is a car ferry which plies the often rough waters of Lake Michigan that is the lone survivor of an era when ships were powered by steam, and the fuel which produced that steam was coal. It is the public’s fondness for this veteran toiler that has kept it running on a regular schedule even in these sophisticated times.

The S.S. Badger is something of a monster, being the largest car ferry ever to sail Lake Michigan. When she began plying the great lakes’ waters in 1953 she wasn’t actually a car ferry. Originally, she was built to carry railway carriages from Wisconsin to Michigan, accommodating passengers in excellent cabins. With the deterioration of passenger railroads and the increasing popularity of the car, S.S. Badger was refitted as a vehicle ferry, and was a regular sight on Lake Michigan.

Badger is a fair size, being 410 feet in length, with a width of just under 60 feet. She can carry 600 passengers and 160 vehicles, including trucks and buses. She also has 60 staterooms for those who crave a bit of comfort during their voyage.

We are fortunate that the Badger is still sailing as she was officially retired in 1990, ending the century-old tradition of car ferries sailing on Lake Michigan. Fortunately, a far sighted entrepreneur used his own money to rejuvenate Badger to service the leisure trade, so in 1991 she began sailing reduced services between Manitowoc, Wisconsin and Ludington, Michigan.

She no longer sails all year round, commencing services each May and continuing her season until October. She normally completes one return journey each day, except in summer, when she will complete two return journeys each day. Each 60 mile sailing from port to port takes four hours to complete.

There are plenty of facilities on board, including buffet dining room, snack bar, free movies, a video arcade and kids play area.

As well as doing the cruise you can all experience transport of yesteryear at Manitowoc by visiting the East Troy Electric Railroad, which is a railroad museum that also runs train journeys on a ten mile track which runs between East Troy and Mukwonago. And utilises historic rail and trolley cars and even has dinner trains during which you enjoy a four course meal as you rumble through the countryside.

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