A Guide to Indiana’s National Park

The Indiana Dunes covers 15 miles of Lake Michigan coastline and extends right into Michigan City. As neighbors of the beautiful national park, the city has plenty of wonderful beaches, water activities, and hiking trails. If you’re not quite sure what to do this summer, we’ve put together a list of activities you can do to enjoy the perks of having a national park in your backyard.

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It was in the midst of winter that marked a change of name for the Indiana Dunes… February 15th, to be exact. What we Indiana people have cherished for so long was finally getting the recognition we knew it deserved. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has become the United States’ 61st national park. Again, we Indiana people celebrated and just about everyone posted their best and most beautiful nature photos that we’ve collected over the years, feeling proud to have grown up with this landscape right in our backyard.

What’s So Special?

If you’ve never been to the Indiana Dunes, you might be wondering what is so special about giant sand dunes and why it’s now a national park. We are here to tell you why the dunes are so unique and special to our area, in Northwest Indiana. 

The landscape was created way back when, about 11,000 years ago, when the mile-high Wisconsin Glacier began to melt away, carving out the Great Lakes, sand dunes, and surrounding wetlands. In 1899, botanist Henry Cowles discovered the rich ecology of plants, animals, and ecosystems that made up the dunes and published an article on his findings in the Botanical Gazette, which brought light nationally to the land in the midwest. It was a long struggle to have government protect this area between industrialization and wars, however with persistent outreach from the community and the establishment of the National Dunes Park Association, the awareness continued to grow. Finally in 1966, the bill was passed for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to become a reality. 

Fast forward 50 years and the community and state representatives felt that the Dunes was bigger than a state park and deserved to be recognized nationally. Finally in February 2019, the Indiana Dunes was officially set to become a national park after years of opposition. The new name change has put Indiana on the map as a place known for its beautiful beaches, massive sand dunes, woodlands, hiking trails, and nature exploring.

Hiking

Nature lovers, bird watchers, and power walkers alike – this is for you. The Indiana Dunes has plenty to explore in the 15,000 acres of woodland, sand, and wetland. If you’re looking to wander the land through hiking trails, there are plenty of places you can plan for your next adventure. 

For the leisurely hiker, a stroll along the shore is one of the best hikes you can take. Whether you’re in Dune Acres or Michigan City, the coastline is a beautiful sight, especially at sunset. Walking along the shore, you can hunt for beach glass, unique rocks, and even sand dollars. Michigan City itself has miles of coastline from Washington Park Beach all the way to Stop 36. 

If you’re looking for more of a woodland hike that may challenge you, some trail systems you can find in Michigan City are the Great Marsh Trail , Heron Rookery Trail, and Mount Baldy Trail. Whether it’s hilly, sandy, or rugged, you will see some amazing sights along the way.

Fun In The Water

Lake Michigan is the second largest Great Lake and there are plenty of ways to enjoy all of that water in the summertime. As Lake Michigan warms up from the cold winter, the best time to get in the water and enjoy is usually July and August. However, there are still ways to enjoy the water in June without getting all the way in.

Harbor Country Adventures offers weekly boat cruises on the Emita II, delivering spectacular views of the shoreline and sunset. From fun, themed dock parties to cocktail hour at sunset, these cruises are the perfect way to be on the lake.

Rent a kayak or paddle board from B & E Marine to get out and enjoy the water, test your balance, and enjoy the view! Other rental options include Maui Mats and Reef Boards.

Beach Bum

If you just feel like relaxing under the sun or building a sand castle, Michigan City has miles of beach to throw your towel down and enjoy.

Washington Park Beach is most popular for families and friends alike. Relax in your beach chair, build a sand castle, or go for a swim. Located close to the harbor and lighthouse, you’ll be able to see the boats go by from a far or even take a walk on the lighthouse to get a closer look.

Located to the east of Washington Park Beach, Sheridan Beach is just as fun and relaxing, offering a little bit more privacy away from the marina and lighthouse. Bring your cooler and snacks, you’ll be set for a great beach day.

As the hidden gem of Michigan City beaches, Mount Baldy Beach is the most exclusive. Located on the opposite side of the lighthouse (the west side), this spot offers more privacy and a beautiful view of the sand dunes that neighbor the national park. While the dune itself is closed, you can walk the designated trail down to the beach to relax, have fun, and enjoy.

Sources:

Beach-Going & Swimming. (2019, May 30). Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/indu/planyourvisit/swimming.htm

Hiking. (2019, March 6). Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/indu/planyourvisit/hiking.htm

History & Culture. (2015, April 10). Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/indu/learn/historyculture/index.htm

Nature. (2015, April 10). Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/indu/learn/nature/index.htm

One response to “A Guide to Indiana’s National Park”

  1. With 15 miles of shoreline, it would be nice if the National Parks Service would designate a small section of the shoreline for clothing optional beach use. Studies show that more and more Americans are open to topless and clothing optional beach use and the Indiana Dunes National Park should be open to the wants of the American Taxpayers.

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