On February 15, 2019, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was upgraded to a National Park, the country’s 61st. The greater Chicago region now has a National Park. Members of the Indiana and Illinois conservation communities have worked for decades to bring about this important designation, and we send our congratulations to them for all their hard work.
The “upgrade” was included in a large spending bill and formally changed the name of Indiana Dunes and as well as a visitor center. But hard work remains in front of us: Indiana Dunes National Park deserves more just than a new name. It deserves to be part of a restored natural and cultural landscape that attracts visitors from throughout the world and the millions of people who live within a few hours drive.
To host such an internationally acclaimed attraction, we need to treat the Dunes like the treasure they are. We must hold industry accountable when it irresponsibly dumps toxic chemicals into surrounding waterways. We must piece back together the mosaic of dunes and swales, oak savannas and prairies, lakes and rivers that once covered this region. In doing so, we must recognize the importance of this area plays in the lives of residents – past and present – who have made their homes here.
All that takes more than a name change. It merits significantly increased and sustained funding for the Park itself by Federal, state, local, and private stakeholders. It also merits Congressional designation of the Calumet National Heritage Area – the region between Hyde Park and Michigan City, Indiana – where extraordinary natural areas and technological innovation co-evolved for generations.
We extend a big ‘thank you’ to our representatives in Congress and ask they do more to make Indiana Dunes National Park a place worthy of mention next to Yellowstone, Isle Royale, and America’s other “Greatest Places.”
Conservation efforts surrounding the Indiana Dunes and its unique ecosystems date back to 1899. The First World War halted protection due to a shift in national priorities, but in 1926 the site was designated as Indiana Dunes State Park. In 1966, the site was officially authorized as a National Lakeshore and Openlands played an integral role in this designation. We strongly encourage you to visit.
Photos from a Birds in my Neighborhood field trip to Indiana Dunes, June 2018.
My own visit to Indiana Dunes National Park was a memorable one.
The park is home to several beautiful beaches, including the popular West Beach and the more secluded Cowles Bog Beach. These beaches are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing, and offer stunning views of the lake. Personally, I tend to stay away from water, but the locations make for stunning photos.
In addition to its natural beauty, Indiana Dunes National Park also has a rich cultural history. The park was once home to several Native American tribes, and later became a popular destination for industry and tourism. Today, visitors can explore the park’s historic sites, including the Chellberg Farm and the Bailly Homestead, to learn more about the area’s past.
Overall, Indiana Dunes National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers, history buffs, and anyone looking for a beautiful and unique outdoor experience. One day I will return, but I have a lot of parks to visit.
Thanks so much for this wonderful review of your experience there, Keith! We are glad you have enjoyed our time at the Dunes.