The SS Badger Lake Michigan car ferry has a new coat of paint. Here's what to know about its upcoming sailing season.

Patti Zarling
Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter

MANITOWOC - The SS Badger makes its maiden voyage for the 2022 season May 12. Tickets are on sale now to say "bon voyage" and head across Lake Michigan.

The popular car ferry will carry passengers from May 20 through Oct. 16 and will run at a full 600-person capacity, according to Sara Spore, vice president and chief financial officer of Lake Michigan Carferry Inc., which operates the SS Badger.

The SS Badger makes a four-hour trip from Manitowoc to Ludington, Michigan, and back through the summer months. It moves back to its pre-pandemic schedule, with one crossover and back between ports from May 12 to June 9 and again Sept. 6 to Oct.16, and two trips per day from June 10 to Sept. 5.

Fan-favorite shoreline cruises will run 2-4 p.m. June 25 and Aug. 20 along the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan.

Spore said an evening cruise is planned for 8-10 p.m. July 30.

The Badger in dry dock in Sturgeon Bay

“The Badger is so unique, it offers a special experience for our passengers,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have had it here for so long.”

Because the Badger falls under federal transportation guidelines, passengers and staff must wear face masks while inside the ship under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pandemic protocols. Masks are not required when outdoors or eating or drinking. The ship will continue to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.

The ship may look a bit different after a long-awaited sprucing up over the winter.

The car ferry traveled to Sturgeon Bay in mid-November, where she stayed for about a month, getting cleaned, repaired and repainted.

The Badger left Ludington, Michigan, towed by two tugs from Sarter Marine Towing, and arrived about 12 hours later in Door County, entering through the channel at Sturgeon Bay. Fans took photos and videos of the ship during her journey and docking.

The SS Badger gets a makeover

The U.S. Coast Guard requires the ship to be inspected every five years. The Badger last made the trip to Sturgeon Bay in 2015, but because of her fresh-water operations and seasonality, Interlake Steamship Co., the ferry’s parent company, received an extension for an additional year.

The car ferry has been designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its heritage and significance on the Great Lakes.

The ship has not changed much in 60 years, when it was built by the Christy Corporation of Sturgeon Bay for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway to carry railroad freight cars across the waters, and also to provide passenger accommodations.

She was pulled out of the water this year and had a full inspection of the underwater portion of the hull. Workers pulled the tail shaft and redid her bearings. The ship was blasted and painted with 800 gallons of paint for the first time since it was operated by the railroad. The color scheme for the ship remains the same.

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The SS Badger in the dock

Spore is excited for the 2022 season to get under way.

“We have had so many different people and groups ride across the water on the Badger, you just never know what you are going to see,” she noted.

Families, business workers, truck drivers and motorcycle groups use her for a pleasure cruise or as a means to cross the lake without heading through Chicago or the Mackinac Bridge spanning lower Michigan with the Upper Peninsula. The ship has carried a circus, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and L.L. Bean Bootmobile.

Visit for more information or to book a trip.

Contact reporter Patti Zarling at 920-606-2586 or send an email to Follow her on Twitter @PGPattiZarling.