Indiana Dunes Is its State’s First National Park

A National Lakeshore gets a promotion.
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Indiana Dunes

Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana just got its first national park, thanks to a provision elevating Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore tucked inside the spending bill that the president signed last week.

The official Indiana Dunes Twitter account posted a photo on February 15 showing a handful of uniformed staff posing next to the area’s welcome sign, with a piece of cardboard reading “park” obscuring the word “Lakeshore.”

“The recent name change at Indiana Dunes helps elevate an already spectacular place to rubbing elbows with Everglades and Yellowstone,” said Park Superintendent Paul Labovitz.

A brief statement on the park’s website on February 19 also referred to the designation as a “name change,” and there has been no indication that the park will operate differently under its new status. As with all newly established parks, though, officials and friends of the area are hopeful that the dunes’ new standing will attract more tourists from out of state.

Situated on the southern shore of Lake Michigan in Northwest Indiana, the 15,000-acre park features 15 miles of shoreline, swamp and marshland, oak forests, and its namesake sand dunes. Visitors can enjoy guided hikes up 126-ft tall Mount Baldy (actually a sand dune), lounge on the beach, or explore a network of bike paths. Indiana Dunes receives up to 2 million visitors per year, according to the National Park Service, and is just under an hour by car from Chicago.

Indiana Dunes’ journey to national park status began in 1916, when activists petitioned to protect the area from encroaching steel mills and power plants; Labovitz points out that the first NPS director, Stephen Mather, pushed for the area to become one of the first national parks that year.

The outbreak of World War I put a halt to their efforts. Indiana Dunes would instead be named a state park a decade later, before becoming a national lakeshore in 1966.

“Our region is very excited about this recognition. A few are worried that the secret is out,” said Labovitz. “In true Hoosier fashion, though, the welcome sign is up and we invite everyone to check out Indiana Dunes National Park, 103-plus years in the making.”