Since 1953, the ferry has been sailing Lake Michigan, shipping passengers, freight and automobiles from Ludington, Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

It's a one-of-a-kind. The SS Badger is "an icon of car ferry heritage on the Great Lakes." It is also the last remaining large coal-burning steamship not only on the Great Lakes, but in the entire United States. It's own Wikipedia entry also notes, the "SS Badger is also unusual in that it is a registered historical site in two states. The Michigan Historical Commission and the Wisconsin Historical commission each named Badger as a registered historical site in 1997."

Since 1953, the now iconic vessel has been sailing across Lake Michigan. Originally commissioned for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, the focus changed from railroad cars to freight and automobiles as America relied less on the once essential railroad system. At one time, there were fourteen ferryboats hailing the port of Ludington as home, including the Spartan- named after the University of Michigan mascot as the Badger is to the University of Wisconsin.

The SS Badger can carry  600 passengers, 180 automobiles, tour buses, RVs, motorcycles, and commercial trucks at a cruising speed of about 18 mph (15.6 knots) across Lake Michigan. About 450 crossings take place each season, with each trip lasting about 4 hours. If you were to make the trip on land, it would take almost 7 hours to go south from Manitowoc, Wisconsin into Illinois and Indiana before heading all the way north along the Michigan coast to Ludington. Thinking of the U.P.? that trip will cost you almost 8 1/2 hours of time behind the wheel.

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A bona fide historic landmark from a different era that is still sailing the Great Lakes, the SS Badger was greeted in Manitowoc by a marching and a big crowd of well-wishers as it completed its maiden voyage of the 2021 season on May 20th.

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