Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore comprises the southern coast of Lake Michigan, an area characterized by a unique assortment of wide beaches and lofty sand dunes. The 15,000 acres of the Indiana Dunes feature a staggering range of ecosystems with a variety of plant and animal life; shore, dunes, forest, prairie, marsh, and bog can all be found.
The unusually diverse and beautiful habitats of the Indiana Dunes inspired Henry Cowles to develop the science of ecology. Get acquainted with the ecological diversity and vast recreational opportunities in the Dunes at the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center, on Kemil Road between Routes 12 and 20. Rangers can help you plan your visit according to your interests and time constraints. Exhibits, a slide presentation, and guides for a number of trails are available. Several other centers offer programs for schools and other groups.
Be sure to explore the Bailly-Chellberg historic area, which is comprised of two settlements. Chellberg is a turn-of-the-century Swedish immigrant farmstead and a living history site. Bailly is the restored 1820 homestead of a French Canadian fur trader. On weekends there are often living history demonstrations (call for details).
Hiking and dune climbing are favorite visitor pastimes at the Indiana Dunes. One of the most popular sites is Mount Baldy, an enormous shifting sand dune over a hundred feet high. From its summit, climbers are rewarded with panoramic views of Lake Michigan and its shoreline for miles. From here you can really see the creep of dune succession, with sand ridges encroaching on the surrounding forest.
Hiking opportunities include the roughly 3-mile Inland Marsh Trail as well as traces of the Old Sauk Trail, which was used for centuries by Potowatami Indians and early settlers. Cowles Bog, a National Natural Landmark, has a trail that incorporates elements of several ecosystems. Winter visitors will find the Ly-co-ki-we Trail ready for cross-country skiing.
Pinhook Bog, an extremely delicate ecosystem, can only be accessed on a ranger-guided tour. The spongy surface of this bog is rich in tannic acid and harbors orchids, insect-eating pitcher plants and other rare flora. In autumn, the bog's sumac trees turn the view to a vivid red. Inland from the dunes, the prairie yields wildflowers ranging from lupines and wild roses to prickly pear cactus. Numerous bird species converge on the area as they migrate along the north-south flyway that passes nearby. Blue heron frequent the marshes, and wildlife watchers regularly spot deer and snapping turtles.
Lifeguards are on duty during the summer at West Beach (Kemil and Porter Beaches are not staffed). Note that north winds can create hazardous rip currents along West Beach; be sure to heed all warnings. Fishing is allowed with a valid Indiana permit. Dunewood Campground offers sites on a first-come, first-served basis from April 1 to October 31; there are no hookups. Camping spaces can be reserved at Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton (219-926-4520). Lodging is readily available in the nearby communities of Michigan City, Pines, Chesterton, Porter, and Gary.
1100 N. Mineral Springs Rd.
- Porter, IN 46304
- 41.63159300, -87.08698600
- Visit Website
- (219) 926-7561