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About the Dunes

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Indiana’s portion of Lake Michigan  stretches 40 miles, from Chicago to the Michigan state line. The Indiana Dunes are so much more than sand and water. Millions of visitors visit the beaches and swim in the lake. A diversity of natural and cultural stories are featured in its forests, savannas, wetlands, prairies, and historical buildings and places. The Indiana Dunes has inspired both art and science.

In the early 1900’s, scientists, and nature enthusiasts, recognizing the value and potential of the area, fought to have the region preserved.  As a result, in 1925, the Indiana Dunes State Park was established. With more than 3 miles of beach, including a seasonally-guarded swimming beach, the park’s 2,182 acres are located at the north end of State Road 49 in Porter County.  Just offshore is the J.D. Marshall Preserve, protecting 100 acres in Lake Michigan near the site where this sand-hauling ship capsized in 1911.  Today, visitors to the Indiana Dunes State Park can stay in the 140-site campground, reserve a picnic shelter, hike or cross-country ski the 16 miles of trails, attend a program or event, and visit the staffed Nature Center.

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Forty years later, in 1966, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was established by Congress, and is made up of a series of non-contiguous parcels in Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties.  It now encompasses 15,000 acres of a variety of habitats, including beach, sand dunes, black oak forest and savanna, wooded wetlands, open prairie, and button-bush swamps. It was here, that Henry Cowles, known to many as the “father of ecology” did his landmark studies of plant succession in the early 1900’s.  The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore also includes several cultural history sites, such as the Bailly Homestead, Chellberg Farm, and “Century of Progress” World’s Fair Homes.

The Indiana Dunes features the most diverse flora and fauna in the Midwest.  Botanists from across the country enjoy studying the unusual collections of plant life. Birders from near and far seek out the migrating shorebirds and warblers that pause here.

Should you be visiting the dunes area for the first time, we hope you can participate in a Friends-sponsored event or activity.  The Indiana Dunes Tourism is also a great source of information.  Below is a great introduction to the Indiana Dunes area.