The Indiana Dunes were a point of controversy for several years before the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was established. Conservationists were working to preserve this area on the southern shore of Lake Michigan while industrialists and the state of Indiana preferred expanding industry by replacing the dunes with steel mills and jobs. In 1966, after years of help from Illinois Senator Paul Douglas, both parties got their wish. The national park was set aside as well as land for another steel mill.
More than just sand dunes and beaches, the unique and fragile environment of the Indiana Dunes is home to one of the most biologically diverse areas of the United States. It’s only 15,000 acres of land, but it ranks 7th in biodiversity out of all the national parks in the entire country.
The Indiana Dunes are a special place for me. I remember going there on school field trips and to the beaches in the summer with friends and family. For me, they are an easy escape from the real world. Parts of them are a place of solitude and reflection. Others draw inspiration. Others yet are just plain fun and evoke memories.
After thoroughly exploring the park, hiking nearly every trail, and visiting every beach, I’m putting some posts together to show what the dunes have to offer. I’ll explain everything I know about the park’s locations. Not included is Indiana Dunes State Park, which is a completely separate park enveloped by the national park.
Some tips for visiting the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore:
- Wear sunscreen.
- Take lots of strong bug spray! Remember that this is mostly marsh and forest. Mosquitoes, biting flies, and other insects will feast on you if you aren’t prepared.
- When swimming, beware of the dangerous undertow that can exist in Lake Michigan. Don’t fight it! Signs at the beaches tell you how to deal with it if you are caught in the current.
- Leave it as you found it. Take all of your garbage with you and don’t wander off the trails. This is a fragile environment and much of it no longer exists in nature.
- Pinhook Bog
- West Beach Dunes Succession Trail
- Little Calumet River Trail
- Mount Baldy
- Cowles Bog
The Visitor Center is located north of Chesterton along Indiana State Road 49. Here, there are displays on the park and rangers available to give more information. You can learn about special guided programs, park closures, and much more. Continue to Part 1.