Indiana Dunes National Park, Ever Hear Of It?

Indiana Dunes National Park was mentioned to me a year ago; so I planned this year’s travel to visit the park. I am so glad I did. 

There is much history in how Lake Michigan’s lakeshore property became a national park … from botanist Henry Cowles’ 1899 scientific article till 2019 when 15,000 acres was designated Indiana Dunes National Park. I drove past steel mills and power plants as I approached the park. Within the east and west sections of the park is the Port of Indiana and obviously prime industrial lakefront property in the past and today. How could it happen to have industry, a port and a protected area within a few miles of each other on this prime real estate? Only with the organizing of supportive local people, the hard work of some politicians, and congressional action did this area, soon to be a the national park, come to reality. 

Not only is the history of the park interesting, but also the geology. The glacial activity formed Lake Michigan which had former shorelines and created sand dunes. The highest dune was 200 feet at one time! Unfortunately it was mined for its sand before the national park designation. There are other dunes, such as 126 feet tall Mount Baldy, and other places of interest: Cowles and Pinhook bogs, beaches and lake views to explore. I could only visit a fraction of the park during my day’s visit and fortunately remained 20 minutes ahead of the rainstorm moving through the area.

The park has an informative film at the visitor center and then I headed to the Great Marsh Trail. Despite it looking like rain, I walked to an observation deck to observe wood ducks and other birds. Fortunately I was back at my van when it poured rain!

Great Marsh Trail entrance to observation deck
Beautiful area

I drove west, ahead of the rain, to visit Long Lake and West Beach. Unfortunately this meant I was missing the bog trails! Once at the West Beach bathhouse, I determined there was no way I could complete the “Diana of the Dunes Dare”, more history here, before being caught in a rainstorm. (I will need to visit this park again.)

Dunes, beaches and bogs … to see another visit.

I left the park in the rain and for the next hour of travel I was caught in rain, thunder, lightning storm, and hail! Water flow was coming up the road drains, not down, and I had one moment when I worried about the depth of some water on the road. The hail stones were the size of grape tomatoes and had me wondering if they would crack my new windshield. 

My windshield was so buggy. (I often stop at Costco gas stations, but they do not have ways to clean windshields. Earlier in the day, I checked interstate highway rest areas with gas stations, only to discover they do not have ways to clean windshields either.) During a lull in the rain, I tried to clean my front window better with a squirt of windshield fluid since I made sure fluid was within the containers at the start of this trip. I discovered the windshield fluid went right over the top of the van; not a drop on the window! First chance I got to stop, I pulled out my taller step stool and discovered the windshield guys (remember, I just had it replaced while on the east coast) did not punch the lower part of the window framing in. As a result, any fluid coming out was totally misdirected. Glad it all happened on a local road and not an interstate!

Visitors to the park come year-round. Birders are here in May and October. There are so many places to visit in this park that stretches for miles along Lake Michigan. I would imagine at least a 3 day visit would be best when I plan my future visit. Camping is available at the state park and the national park’s Dunewood Campground. Probably need to get reservations months prior; and now I know! You know now too, so visit if you are in the area.

My day ended southwest of the storm at a Harvest Host location just over the Indiana border in Illinois. The family has a farm with bee hives, cows, goats and chickens. It was a quiet night. Nice way to end the day!