S.S. BADGER – The largest car ferry ever to sail Lake Michigan. 56 years of service. And starting another season in May.

A video of the S.S. Badger…

S.S. BADGER: A little history, a lot of fun!

qffsv35lerfmytwmvvfglehh5uqlef40jz6ujtoux4ohwqwefd3olkohdov20c7oaac6o6zwu.jpg The S.S. Badger is the largest car ferry ever to sail Lake Michigan, and has provided a safe, fun, and reliable shortcut across the huge inland sea for more than fifty years. The S.S. Badger is a national treasure, offering a cruise experience that links us to an earlier time when a sea voyage was the ultimate travel and vacation adventure.

As the only coal-fired steamship in operation in North America, the S.S. Badger operates on domestic fuel, and the company has  an extraordinary commitment to maintaining a unique propulsion system that has been designated as a national mechanical engineering landmark. The S.S. Badger offers an authentic steamship experience unmatched anywhere else.

The 410′ S.S. Badger entered service in 1953, designed specifically to handle the rough conditions that it would likely encounter during year ’round sailing on Lake Michigan. Built primarily to transport railroad freight cars, but with superior passenger accommodations, the Badger reigned as Queen of the Lakes during the car ferries’ Golden Era in the late Fifties, with Manitowoc, Milwaukee, and Kewaunee as her Wisconsin ports of call.

qffsv35lepkqlwn3kgbymj5lemqsofdixtkaqwjdv2kef1uukqg1gqsmpguu8sy.jpgBy the Seventies, changing railroad economics were condemning other car ferries to mothballs or the scrap yard. With little railroad freight business left, and without ever tapping into the opportunity to serve the needs of the vacation traveler, the Badger sailed from Wisconsin to Ludington and tied up for the last time in November 1990 – signaling the end of the century-old tradition of car ferry service on Lake Michigan.

The demise of the car ferries was devastating to the communities they had served and the thousands of passengers who loved them. It seemed that the magic of these wonderful ships would only live in memory, never to be experienced by future generations.

800px-ssbadger.jpgHowever, in 1991, an entrepreneur named Charles Conrad committed his own financial resources to reinvent the S.S. Badger to carry leisure passengers and their vehicles.

Since then, this legend of the Great Lakes has delighted a whole new generation of people, allowing them to experience a bit of history that almost slipped away while cruising to fun destinations on both sides of Lake Michigan.

The S.S. Badger now sails daily between Manitowoc, Wisconsin and Ludington, Michigan from mid-May through mid-October.  For information click here.

Blending tradition with innovation, the Badger affords a rare opportunity to take a step back into the past and take a journey that’s as important as the destination.

The Badger’s propulsion system designated a mechanical engineering landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers

The Badger officially named a Registered Michigan Historic Site by the Michigan Historical Commission

The Badger officially named a Registered Wisconsin Historic Site by the Wisconsin Historical Commission

Lake Michigan Carferry designated a Michigan Centennial Business by the Historical Society of Michigan

The Badger is named Ship of the Year by the Steamship Historical Society of America


About Michael L. Grace

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…