Lake Michigan car ferry S.S. Badger suspends service, offers refunds

The coal-powered SS Badger pulls out of Ludington, Michigan's harbor as it heads towards Manitowoc, Wisconsin in August 2011. (Denise Stocker/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

America's last coal-powered steamship on Lake Michigan is now docked as the ferry that hauls 180 from Michigan to Wisconsin is temporarily suspending operations.

The owners of the S.S. Badger announced that the car ferry had experienced a mechanical failure of its ramping system, forcing the Badger to stop operating.

Lake Michigan Carferry owns the Badger and announced that it is searching for partners to repair the issue as quickly as possible. There's not currently a timeline for when operations will resume.

Passengers who already paid for their ticket can call 1-800-841-4243 to either issue a refund or change their reservation.

The ship, which was built in 1952 and 1953, came under new ownership in 2020 when Lake Michigan Carferry was bought by Interlake Holding Company.

The S.S. Badger became a National Historic Landmark in 2016. While its coal-fired propulsion system is unique and was part of the historic designation, Spore said the company is not worried about it losing that landmark status.

The S.S. Badger transported railcars across Lake Michigan between 1953 and 1990, when it appeared destined for the scrapyard. It was saved in 1992 by Ludington native Charles Conrad, who converted it into a ferry, and it’s been transporting passengers and vehicles across the lake ever since.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.