Lake Michigan High-Speed Car Ferry Options

One Great Lake -- Two Great Auto Ferry Options -- The Lake Express and SS Badger

Breaking News: April 2, 2012

The SS Badger announces clean energy grant award moving it forward on its quest to become the greenest ferry on the Great Lakes

LUDINGTON, MI - Lake Michigan Carferry (LMC) has been awarded a $75,000 grant from the Wisconsin State Energy Office to begin the engineering work for converting the S.S. Badger to use Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) as its fuel source.

The announcement follows the news of an $800,000 federal grant to the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute, also to study the use of LNG on Great Lakes vessels. The Badger will serve as the model vessel in the study, which is funded by the U.S. Maritime Administration.

"Natural gas is a fuel source that has the potential to revolutionize shipping not just on the Great Lakes but across the United States," said Patrick McCarthy, V.P. of Shore Operations for LMC. LNG is a clean, cost-effective fuel that has worked in Europe but is only now developing for transportation in the United States.

The Wisconsin grant, which is conditioned on ultimate fuel conversion from coal, will specifically address the necessary modifications to switch the Badger's four coal-fired boilers to burn LNG. "This engineering work is a critical first step of the conversion to LNG," said Chuck Cart, senior chief engineer on the Badger.

While no matching funds were required for the Wisconsin grant program, the engineering work will exceed the grant award, and LMC is covering approximately 30% of the project cost. The engineering work will be completed in June.

"We appreciate this grant award as we are committed to making the Badger the "greenest" vessel on the Great Lakes," said McCarthy.

Breaking News September 3, 2009: S.S. Badger ends season early
The S.S. Badger will end its 2009 sailing season on Sunday, September 27, rather than the originally published October 11th date. "October is typically a marginal month in terms of profitability, and having the opportunity to take the Badger to the dry dock for its mandatory five-year inspection early in October will save the company money and avoid stormy weather later in the month," said Lake Michigan Carferry spokesperson Kari Karr. "We wanted to let our customers know about the schedule change well in advance so they don't have to alter their travel plans at the last minute."
The Badger will be towed by tug to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for the out-of-the-water inspection in early October and be towed back to Ludington several weeks later. "Avoiding bad weather in late October or early November for the trip home is a real benefit," said company president Bob Manglitz. "The Badger is in very good condition, and we don't expect any surprises when the ship is in dry dock."
The  historic 410' car ferry makes one round trip per day, offering fall bargains and a fun travel experience on Lake Michigan during one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. The popular "Kids Go Free" program is still in effect;  new this month are a "Fall Senior Travel Package" featuring reduced passenger fares for those 55 and over plus coupons  for discounts on food purchases, gift shop items, and stateroom rentals.
For passengers who don't fit into the age categories for kids or seniors, a new fall vehicle discount program allows for $10 off vehicle fares for each full-fare adult traveling with that vehicle. For information or reservations, call 800-841-4243

This is a tale of two ferries.

The size of Lake Michigan causes many visitors to comment "it is just like the ocean." This size has long been a barrier for travel and commerce between Wisconsin and Michigan. In the past creative business people created ferries for transporting cars, trains and passengers over this great lake. During the peak of the ferries there were many of these mighty ships traveling to and from multiple locations in Michigan and Wisconsin.

The peak of ferry travel is long over. No longer are the ferries used to move large amounts of cargo -- railroad cars have not traveled aboard the ferries for decades. There are currently only two ferries left to provide cross-lake passage on Lake Michigan. One service, operated by Lake Michigan Car Ferry, runs the SS Badger. The other service, runs a boat called the Lake Express.

These ferries are in place primarily for recreational travel of their passengers. This does not mean the ferries only serve recreation, but their role in transport of the large freight cargos is substantially reduced. There are some business people that use the ferries as alternative transportation in their business travel and the larger of the two ferries, the SS Badger, is especially built to handle many oversize loads of merchandise and supplies heading from Michigan to Wisconsin and back.

This site is designed to help the potential ferry traveler to determine which ferry is the best choice for their needs.

Ferry Comparison Table
SS BadgerLake Express
Established ServiceOver 50 years6 years
Ship SizeLarger ShipSmaller Ship
Fastest TripA little over 4 hoursFaster in Smooth Weather
Travel to ChicagoFurtherCloser
Travel to UP and Green BayCloserFurther
Travel to MuskegonFurtherCloser
Travel to Michigan's Tax Center
Valet LoadingLoaded by Ship StaffOwner's Load Their Cars
Kid FriendlyGame Room and Room to Explore
EntertainmentVideo lounges, theater, live entertainmentVideo with Audio Headsets
PriceSlightly less expensiveSlightly more expensive
Campers / BoatsCan handle very large loadsOnly standard size vehicles
Car Rental at TerminalNoYes
Onine Ticket Purchases Yes Yes

For more info: To contact ferry operators or for more information about Lake Michigan ferries or ferries in general, try the links at the top or bottom of this page or call them directly.

For more information about this Web site you may contact 231-206-0551 (this number only for information about advertising on this site)

This site has no connection with the Lake Express, the SS Badger or any of the companies operating these ferries. This site also has no connection with any companies mentioned on the site. The site is strictly a personal site intended to help potential ferry travelers. This is an independent site designed only to show the advantages of each ferry in different situations. Which ever ferry you choose -- it is worth the trip.