Michigan Roadside Attractions: Ludington Pumped Storage Plant

Michigan Roadside Attractions: Ludington Pumped Storage Plant

Ludington Pumped Storage Plant Michigan Overllok Information Signs

Michigan Roadside Attractions is a periodic feature on Travel the Mitten that will explore the many interesting things that can be found on the highways, byways and back roads of Michigan, ranging from the interesting to the unusual.

On our way home from a recent weekend trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, we followed the Lake Michigan shoreline and took the scenic way back before returning to reality. While in Ludington I remembered that I had been curious to see the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant in person so we headed south of town to check it out. This marvel of modern engineering was impressive to see in person, and it was even cooler to be able to drive over the dam as well as view it from the observation platform. Today we will look at how the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant works and how you can visit and see it for yourself.

Ludington Pumped Storage Plant Lake Michigan

The Ludington Pumped Storage Plant was built from 1969 to 1973 and was the largest pumped storage plant in the world at the time of its completion. It is still one of the world’s largest, ranking behind three facilities in China, one in Japan, and one in Virginia (which was the world’s largest until 2021). Seeing this facility was pretty different than the other dams we’ve visited across the state, and it was nice that multiple signs provide information about how the facility works.

Ludington Pumped Storage Plant How It Works

During the day, water is released down the hill through turbines to create electricity. At night when there is less demand for electricity, water is pumped up from Lake Michigan to fill the reservoir. This is how the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant is able to quickly step up when there is high demand for energy in Michigan. The reservoir holds 27 billion gallons and is capable of generating more than 2,000 megawatts of electricity. The plant was named as one of Michigan’s Top 10 Civil Engineering Projects of the 20th Century, alongside the Mackinac Bridge, the Soo Locks, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, and other projects.

Ludington Pumped Storage Plant Start of Trail

Ludington Pumped Storage Plant Bridge Over Road to Lookout

A small parking lot on S. Lakeshore Drive provides access to a trail that heads uphill and a bridge that crosses over the road before reaching an overlook with a great view of the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant. The Mason County Picnic Grounds and a disc golf course border the Consumers Energy property here as well.

Ludington Pumped Storage Plant Lake Michigan Consumers Energy

From the observation area you will see many birds and possibly some other wildlife. Out in the water you will see that Consumers has gone to great lengths to keep fish safe and out of the plant with a series of nets and barriers.

Ludington Pumped Storage Plant Walkway to Upper Reservoir

Another trail leads uphill to the top of the reservoir, where an observation tower offers great views from high above Ludington. This is a steep uphill hike on a paved path.

Ludington Pumped Storage Plant View From Reservoir

From this viewing platform you can see across the reservoir as wind turbines turn in the distance, look back at the harbor and downtown Ludington, and look down to Lake Michigan to get a real feel for how far the water descends during the generation process.

Ludington Pumped Storage Plant Michigan Turbine Roadside Attractions

As we headed south on S. Lakeshore Dr. after crossing over the pumped storage plant, we saw another landmark on the side of the road. One of the pump-runner turbines that used to generate electricity here has been put up on display to give visitors an idea of how big the pieces of this plant are. A pair of panel signs explain how the turbines work and note that this one was used from 1973 to 2019 and saw 150,000 hours of operation!