Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
is a U.S. national lakeshore
located in northwest Indiana
that was authorized by Congress in 1966. The national lakeshore runs for nearly 25 miles (40 km) along the southern shore of Lake Michigan
, from Gary, Indiana
, on the west to Michigan City, Indiana
on the east. The park contains approximately 15,000 acres (61 km²
). The National Lakeshore has development rights over the area within its boundaries, but has not purchased the full extent of the property. Its holdings are non-contiguous and do not include the Indiana Dunes State Park
(1916), a separate, 2,182 acre (9 km²) parcel of protected dune land on the lakefront near Chesterton, Indiana
The park contains 15 miles (24 km) of beaches, as well as sand dunes, bogs, marshes, swamps, fens, prairies, rivers, oak savannas, and woodland forests. The park is also noted for its singing sands. More than 350 species of birds have been observed in the park. It has one of the most diverse plant communities of any unit in the U.S. National Park System with 1418 vascular plant species including 90 threatened or endangered ones. The Indiana Dunes area is unique in that it contains both Arctic and boreal plants (such as the bearberry) alongside desert plants (such as the prickly pear cactus).
First-time visitors to the Lakeshore often go to the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center at U.S. Highway 20 and Indiana Route 49, near Porter, Indiana. This brand-new center (2007) offers standard visitor-center amenities, including a video, brochures, hands-on exhibits, and a gift shop. It is free to the general public.
Camping is available at the Dunewood Campground on U.S. Highway 12 and Broadway, in Beverly Shores. The campground includes an RV dump station and two loops of trailer accessible sites (some with pull-through drives). All sites have grills, a picnic table, and access to restrooms with running water and showers. There are a limited number of walk-in sites in the Douglas Loop.
The park provides opportunities for bird watching, camping, 45 miles (72 km) of hiking, fishing, swimming, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. Cycling is available on the Calumet Trail, a crushed limestone multiuse trail which runs through the eastern section of the park, providing access to the Indiana Dunes State Park, as well as to the communities of Beverly Shores; the Town of Pines; and Mount Baldy on the edge of Michigan City, Indiana. The park had more than 2.1 million visits in 2007.
Rules state not to feed any of the wildlife, including seagulls, deer, or raccoons.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is full of wildlife, including whitetail deer
, red fox
, cottontail rabbits
, Canada geese
, turkey vultures
, great blue herons
, garter snakes
, songbirds, and rodents.
The Indiana Dunes area first came to prominence in 1899 when Henry Chandler Cowles
did some of the pioneering work in American plant ecology
there. Despite attempts to protect the area from threats such as the nearby Gary steel mills led by groups such as the Prairie Club of Chicago
, the area continued to be exploited. The tallest dune in Indiana, the 200 foot (60 m) high Hoosier Slide, was hauled away and turned into glass by Pittsburgh Plate Glass and canning jars by Ball Brothers
Founding of State Park
In 1916 there was talk of making the site the "Sand Dunes National Park". Indiana State Park's founder Richard Lieber
toured the site with then NPS Director Stephen Mather
on October 31, 1916 to gauge its worthiness. In 1926, part of the area became the Indiana Dunes State Park
. A few years after, the Indiana Dunes Bathhouse and Pavilion was erected just north of the park entrance. The bathhouse continues to be widely used today and remains in its original form.
Conflict with Industry
Significant political controversy arose in the 1950s and 1960s due to conflicts between industrial expansion and recreational use of the lakefront, and is noted in the administrative history of the National Lakeshore. One event heavily protested was the removal of a sand dune to provide landfill for the expansion of Northwestern University's Evanston, IL campus, . Bethlehem Steel was additionally granted permits to build a plant at Burns Harbor, IN, displacing dunes and wildlife. A harbor, Burns Harbor, was also proposed for the area.
Creation of the National Lakeshore
Citizens united to form the Save the Dunes Council and gained political support to protect the remaining lakeshore. In 1963, the Kennedy Compromise linked the construction of the Port of Indiana
to the development of a National Lakeshore. The Lakeshore was created in 1966 and expanded in 1976, 1980, 1986 and 1992.
The Bailly-Chellberg farmstead is located close to the geographic center of the National Lakeshore, at U.S. Highway 20
and Mineral Springs Road.
This is the location of the pioneer trading post
established in 1822
by fur trade
pioneer Joseph Bailly
. Bailly settled here and his last home, adapted from his 1830s retirement house, survives.
The real estate became the home of the Chellberg family, who built a farm on its sandy soil. As of 2008
, the Lakeshore maintains a heritage farm
on the Chellberg land, with the Bailly family cemetery on the northern edge of the property.
The Bailly Cemetery is located half a mile north of the homestead. Its location is a sandy bluff, which once looked out across the dunes to Lake Michigan
. Today, the forest covers the dunes and the lake is no visible. Numerous changes have occurred since the first burial in 1827.
Joseph Bailly buried his only son by Marie in the fall of 1827 on a sandy knoll. He erected a oak cross on the site and a 3-sided shelter. After 1866, the Bailly area was no longer the quiet place that it had been. Other families now lived in the area and some had been using the cemetery for their families. Late in 1866, Rose Howe (granddaughter of Joseph Bailly) had the family plots fenced and requested that other remove their family to other cemeteries. In 1879 she had the entire cemetery walled in and an iron gate installed to the north.
Finally in 1914, Rose Howe took one further step to protect the cemetery of her family. She had the area inside the wall filled with sand. Stone steps replaced the gate to a contemplative walk atop the cemetery. An oaken cross was raised atop this new ground, continuing the tradition started by her grandfather. Rose Howe died in 1916, while in California. She was returned to Indiana in 1917 and was the last burial in the family cemetery.
Century of Progress Architectural District
The Century of Progress Architectural District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is located in Beverly Shores, Indiana. The district consists of a total of five buildings, all from the Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition during the 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair which took place in Chicago.
Cowles Bog, a National Natural Landmark
, is a fen wetland
named in honor of biologist
and ecologist Henry Cowles
. Located south and west of Dune Acres, Indiana
, Cowles Bog is the sole remaining remnant of the Central Dunes
where Cowles performed his pioneering field studies of plant succession
and species diversity. A National Lakeshore trail runs from Mineral Springs Road into Cowles Bog.
Rookery is located along the Little Calumet River in the northwest corner of Porter County
. The Rookery is physically separated from the main part of the park. It is accessible from County Road 600 East, south of County Road 1400 North. The rookery is a hardwood
forest. In the spring, the Great Blue Herons can be seen nesting in the in the dead snags north of the river. Spring also brings out a variety of wildflowers.
Hoosier Prairie, a National Natural Landmark
, is a 430-acre (1.7 km²) tallgrass prairie
adjacent to Griffith, Indiana
. It is a geographically isolated unit of the Lakeshore, owned and maintained by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources
as a state nature preserve. 574 separate species of plants have been observed growing in this patch of prairie, or more than 1 species per acre.
Mount Baldy is a sand dune located west of Michigan City, Indiana. At 123 feet tall, it is one of the tallest sand dunes on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. It is a wandering dune that moves an average of 4 feet every year, and so is called a "living dune." Mount Baldy is accessible from U.S. Route 12 (also known as Dunes Highway) between the town of Pines and the western border of Michigan City. Visitors can hike 0.7 miles up the dune and from the top, on a clear day, can view Chicago's skyline and the south shore. North of Mount Baldy is a swimming beach. As of early 2007 the dune hike to the summit is closed due to erosion of the dune, however a new trail through the forest will still take you to the summit.
Pinhook Bog, a National Natural Landmark
, is a geographically isolated unit of the National Lakeshore. The quaking peat bog
is located near U.S. Highway 421
approximately 9 miles (14 km) south of Michigan City. The bog formed from a postglacial kettle moraine
left behind about 14,000 years before the present by the melting of the ice sheet during the end of the Wisconsin glaciation
. The acidic bog is noted for pitcher plants
and other wetland species. Access to the bog is restricted to ranger-led guided tours.
West Beach, located adjacent to U.S. Highway 12
in Portage, Indiana
, is a geographically separated section of the Lakeshore that is preserved as a piece of public beach access and an example of the same theme of plant succession as is found in Cowles Bog. This section of the Lakeshore displays most of the successive stages of Indiana Dunes biotic progression, from open beach sands to mature black oak
forest. A new (2007) West Beach Succession Trail (0.7 miles (1.1 km) in length) features different stages of plant succession in the beach and inland dunes.
Duneland Harvest Festival
The Duneland Harvest Festival occurs each fall on the 3rd weekend of September. It's a time to celebrate the harvest and to learn about life at the beginning of the 20th Century. The main festival grounds are around the Chellburg Home within the national lakeshore. Craft demonstrations show how apples were turned into cider and how sorgum is crushed into a sweet syrup. Other crafts include wood carving and making utensils. The different herbs, candle making, and sheep shearing. Vendors provide food from the early 1900s, including carmel apples, sweet corn dripping in butter and a variety of ciders and cookies. Music is not forgotten. Musicians playing traditional songs and instruments entertain throughout the day. Most years, you'll have an opportunity to see and learn traditional dances.
Maple Sugar Time Festival
The Maple Sugar Time Festival occurs each spring in late March. This festival's success is highly dependent on the weather. The nights have to be cold and the day's warm. This creates the up and down cycle of sap in the maple
trees. The festival shows how maple sap was collected by the Potawatomi
Indians, the early settlers and the modern maple syrup industry.
National park units in Indiana
- Hill, C.L., et al. (1991). Our changing landscape : Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore [U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1085]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
- Daniel, Glenda, Dune Country, A Hiker’s Guide to the Indiana Dunes Swallow Press, Chicago, IL 1984.
- Engel, J. Ronald; Sacred Sands, The Struggle for Community in the Indiana Dunes; Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, Connecticut; 1983
- Franklin, Kay & Norma Schaeffer, Duel for the Dunes, Land Use Conflict on the Shores of Lake Michigan; University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Illinois, 1983
- McPherson, Alan, Nature Walks in Northern Indiana, Hoosier Chapter of the Sierra Club, 1996
- Moore, Powell A., The Calumet Region, Indiana’s Last Frontier, Indiana Historical Bureau, 1959
- Pitcher, Emma Bickham, Up and Down the Dunes, Shirley Heinze Environmental Fund, 1987
- Schaeffer, Norma & Kay Franklin, ‘Round and About the Dunes, Dunes Enterprise, Beverly Shores, Indiana 1983.