There are lots of National Parks Service designations and classifications for various places managed by the NPS (National Memorial, National Monument, National Wild and Scenic River), but none are as distinguished as the title “National Park”. While it’s not often that America gets a new National Park, there are dozens of protected areas that deserve it. Which is why its a big deal that one such preserve, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, is moving closer and closer to that coveted National Park status.
Indiana Dunes, conveniently located just outside of Chicago, contains about 15,000 total acres of land. It’s made up of the 25 miles of dune-studded Lake Michigan shoreline, along with other disconnected protected historic sites and natural areas. The dunes themselves are a main feature to visit. You might even experience “singing sand” on a visit here; this is a phenomenon where sand, under very certain conditions, makes a whistling, roaring, squeaking noise. Mount Baldy is the largest dune on the shore at 123 feet tall. On a clear day, spy the Chicago skyline from various vantage points around the lakeshore. Other dune hikes include Succession Trail, Tolleston Dune, and the Calumet Dune Trail.
While the dunes are the park’s main feature, you can also find bogs, prairie, woodland, rivers, a heron rookery, and lots of historic sites. The dunes are also a habitat for endangered plants and wildlife. The NPS offers tons of interpretive programs at several visitor and nature centers and to help visitors fully appreciate their visits to the park. There are plenty of campsites, and let’s not forget that the dunes provide beach access! The park surrounds several towns like Michigan City and Pines, which are cozy lakeshore communities that help draw in visitors to the dunes.
These communities would be helped greatly by the tourism that a National Park designation would bring in. There’s now a proposal to re-named Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore a National Park (backed, of course, by all of Indiana’s U.S. House Members). New National Parks are created by Acts of Congress, a bill that is passed by a majority of members of the House of Representatives and a majority of members in the Senate, and then is signed by the President.
This isn’t the first time Indiana Dunes has come close to being named a National Park. Following a movement that began in 1899 to preserve Indiana’s dunes, National Parks Director Stephen Mather started the process of declaring the dunes a National Park in 1916. The idea was tabled due to World War I. Locals still pushed to protect the area, and finally, in 1966, a bill that created the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was passed. If (or when) Indiana Dunes achieves National Park status, it will have been a long time coming.
If you’re looking to road trip along the National Lakeshore, U.S. Route 12 in Indiana (sometimes called the Dunes Highway) is the perfect way to experience it all.
More National Parks awesomeness…