A Case Study

Joseph J. Green

Northern Arizona University

Across the United States are many little known tourist locations. One such location is Saugatuck, a small city located in Allegan county in south-west Michigan. The purpose of this study is to highlight one the United State’s small time tourist locations and explore some reasons someone may or may not want to visit the city. This study will cover several questions:


The city of Saugatuck is divided by the Kalamazoo river. The downtown area is situated on the east side of the river, with some housing, a few tourist attractions, and access to Lake Michigan on the west side. Situated on this river is a hand-cranked chain and pulley driven ferry that grants quick access across the river, mainly to access Oval beach on Lake Michigan, for a small fee (Michigan, n.d.).

The city also offers a bus service called the Interurban. The Interurban is an on-demand pickup and drop off service that operates in Saugatuck township, which covers the cities of Saugatuck and Douglass, that offers pick ups and drop offs at any location in the service area. This service permits reservations, and claims to be able to arrange a pickup within as little as 15 minutes after the call. The service fee is a mere $1.00 for healthy people 12 and older, and $0.50 for seniors 62 and over, children under 12, or persons with disabilities (, n.d.). The Interurban effectively operates like a cheap taxi service.

For private vehicles the parking situation can be a bit odd in the winter months. The city enforces something they call “odd/even parking.” For a few hours every morning 0300-0600, on even numbered days, all vehicles must be parked on the side of the street with even numbered buildings, and on odd days, the odd numbered building sides. However, this only applies from November first until April first, and not during the summer when many people may prefer to visit (, n.d.).


Low cost lodging is available in the area. Such as the AmericaInn Lodge & Suites located on Blue Star Highway in Douglas close to downtown Saugatuck and the beach. The Inn claims it starts at $81 dollars a night and includes a “home style” breakfast. It appears to be fairly standard lodging one might find for under $100 near small time tourist locations (AmericInn, n.d.). On the other end of the spectrum is The Hotel Saugatuck. Rooms start at around $280 a night. The hotel’s building was originally built in 1865, and has been the location of many different business over the centuries, evolving along with the rest of the town of Saugatuck. Currently, however, it lives its life as a bed and breakfast. The hotel has a Chef on duty and breakfast is served every morning at a time of the guest’s choosing. The hotel is located just south of the city with a short distance to downtown and, thanks to the ferry, to the beach (The Hotel Saugatuck, n.d.).


Despite its small size, Saugatuck has a plethora of activities to participate in. Saugatuck is known for being a top art center, which “traces its creative roots back 100 years to the day when The Art Institute of Chicago established its Ox-Bow School here” (Saugatuck, n.d.). Dozens of artists from a variety of disciplines, including painters and sculptors, continue to keep the art community alive.

Dune rides are another favored activity in the area. Guests ride along in a dune buggy as the driver races up and down the dunes (, n.d.). As mentioned earlier, Oval beach is nearby which allows people to enjoy Lake Michigan (, n.d.). There is also Mount Baldhead Park. This place is famous for having a huge staircase that climbs up a fairly steep hill with over 200 steps, and once at the top, one can get a view of Lake Michigan along with a sandy hill one can travel down and get to the lake (, n.d.). There is, of course, the kalamazoo river and the ferry used to cross it that one can explore which was mentioned earlier. Saugatuck is also home to quite a few museums, restaurants, specialty stores, a golf course, a center of the arts, landmarks, and many other activities (, n.d.).


While crimes aren’t completely unknown in Saugatuck, the rates are much lower than other places in the country (Home Security, n.d.). Considering that the population of the town is under 1000 people, along with huge influxes of tourism in the warmer months, it would seem that most information on crime in Saugatuck would be unreliable at best. Being that the population of people who live there is small, and that it’s a rather wealthy town, crime among the natives would appear to be low, but with tourists who come from all over and aren’t always the same people every year, or at the same time, it’s hard to gage useful crime statistics.


Saugatuck has fairly average weather for the midwest. The yearly lows are around -13F in January with February being the only other month to dip below 0 degrees on average. The highs can top 90 degrees during May through September with the highs staying above freezing year round. Average temperatures, however, find that December through February are the only months that remain at the freezing point or below, and most days averaging around 70 degrees or less (, n.d.).

The city also has a much better than average air quality index. The national air quality index is set at 50, with Michigan’s sitting at a poor 69. A higher number means higher pollution with this index, and Saugatuck sits in at 29, nearly half that of the national average, and much more than half the state average. The city has 319 days a year where the air quality is considered good, 46 that it is considered moderate, and 0 days that the quality is considered poor for sensitive people or unhealthy for the general public (, n.d.). It’s safe to conclude that Saugatuck is a pretty good place to breath, regarding pollution.

Precipitation wise, Saugatuck gets plenty of it with it’s average of 2.2 inches of precipitation a month. However, some days can meet or exceede the monthly averages on their own. In June, despite the average being 2.4 in a month, it has been recorded that a single day can reach as high as 5 inches (, n.d.). As for snow, Saugatuck generally gets about 78 inches per winter (, n.d.).

Saugatuck’s minimum wind speed stays under 5MPH all year long, but doesn’t seem to hit 0 MPH except in September. Average wind speeds stay at or above 5MPH, yet stay below 10MPH. The highs, however, can be as high as around 25MPH in March and November, with the highs typically being 20MPH or lower (, n.d.).

Natural Diasters

Tornados rarely come near the city, but they do occur. 1956 witnessed the largest tornado in the Saugatuck area which was a category F5 which resulted in 17 deaths and 292 injuries. Average yearly tornados is 1, but from 1950-2014, only 49 tornados have struck the area, and rarely does anyone get injured (, n.d.).

Since 1935 there have been 0 earthquakes in Saugatuck (, n.d.). Though six have been recorded since 1930, the end of a hurricane has been known to find its way into Michigan. In 2008 hurricane Gustav found it’s way up through the golf of Mexico, eventually passing through Saugatuck, and ending at Lake Huron (, n.d.). Overall, Saugatuck seems safe from many natural disasters.


Saugatuck Michigan is a nice little town in South West Michigan worth taking a look at for vacation for a variety of types of people. There are many attractions from historical landmarks to fine dining, from hiking through the woods to riding the dunes, from shopping gift and specialty shops, to viewing the local art scene. Public transportation is exceptionally cheap, on-demand, and full service. Lodging is available from the low end at $80 a night type of affair, to a bed and breakfast in a historical building. The town appears to be safe and secure for tourists of all kinds to appreciate what the city has to offer. The pollution is low making it a safe place to visit for people with air sensitivity issues, and even for healthy people, it may be nice to get out and breathe air rated at nearly half the pollution levels of the nation at large. Natural disasters rarely strike, and when they do it results in minimum damage. The only thing one could reasonably find complaint with is the rather low average temperatures and perhaps the rain and snow, but the snow is easily evaded (or enjoyed) by carefully planning a trip. Saugatuck, Michigan is a nice, safe, healthy place to go to get away from home.


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