Article Overview: Indiana Dunes National Park Facts
Indiana Dunes National Park Facts! In this article, we provide you with 10 amazing facts about one of America’s most magnificent national parks.
More Than Just Parks is your one-stop-shop when it comes to learning everything you’ll need to know about America’s national parks. We’ve got expert guides, beautiful photos, helpful tips, breathtaking films and so much more.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind some of these natural wonders. Then I got to see them firsthand.
And now I’m sharing some of the incredible stories about these beautiful places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
More Than Just Parks takes a deeper dive with its national park facts. We’ve done our homework so that you’ll get more than you bargained for.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Table Of Contents : Indiana Dunes National Park Facts
Indiana Dunes National Park Facts
- Facts About Indiana Dunes National Park
- Top 5 Indiana Dunes National Park Facts
- 1. Indiana Dunes Was The Birthplace Of Ecology
- 2. The Harsh Topography Of The Area Discouraged Early Settlements
- 3. Three key Individuals Helped To Make Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore A Reality
- 4. Indiana Dunes Is A Treasure Trove Of Nature
- 5. Biological Diversity Was A Key Reason For The Creation Of The Park
- Top 10 Indiana Dunes National Park Facts
- Map Of Indiana Dunes National Park
Facts About Indiana Dunes National Park
Some Basic Facts About Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park is a beautiful and unique park located in Indiana. The park covers over 15,000 acres of land and is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life, as well as several unique geological features.
The park is located along the shores of Lake Michigan and features a diverse landscape, including forests of oak and beech trees, grasslands, wetlands, and several miles of sandy beaches. The park is also home to a wide variety of plant and animal life, including over 400 species of plants, over 300 species of birds, and several species of reptiles and amphibians.
There are many ways to explore and enjoy Indiana Dunes National Park. Visitors can go swimming or sunbathing on the park’s beaches, go hiking or biking on the park’s trails, or even go fishing or boating in Lake Michigan. There are also several campgrounds and lodges located within the park, providing comfortable accommodations for visitors.
Indiana Dunes National Park is a beautiful and unique place, offering visitors the opportunity to experience the beauty and majesty of the natural world in a truly special setting. It is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with plenty of opportunities for swimming, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
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Now Here Are Some Basic Facts
- Location: Indiana
- Acreage: Indiana Dunes consists of 2,182 acres of primitive, beautiful, historic, and unique Hoosier landscape. It lies at the north end of State Road 49 in Porter County and includes more than three miles of beautiful beach along Lake Michigan’s southern shore.
- Visitation: The number of visitors to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore amounted to approximately 3.18 million in 2021.
- Highest Elevation: At 192 feet above Lake Michigan, Mount Tom is the highest dune in the state of Indiana.
- Lowest Elevation: The lowest elevation found in Indiana Dunes is 597 feet at Lake Michigan.
- Average Annual Precipitation: The average amount of precipitation for the year in St. Louis – Gateway Arch is 40.3″ inches.
- When Did It Become A National Park? It was authorized by Congress in 1966 as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and was re-designated as the nation’s 61st national park on February 15, 2019.
Top 5 Indiana Dunes National Park Facts
1. Indiana Dunes Was The Birthplace Of Ecology
In researching the history of America’s national parks, I am always on the lookout for fascinating facts. One of the most fascinating Indiana Dunes National Parks Facts is that Indiana Dunes was the birthplace of the science of ecology.
Ecology is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment; it seeks to understand the vital connections between plants and animals and the world around them.
Henry C. Cowles
While still a botany student at the University of Chicago, Henry C. Cowles’ investigations formed the foundation of the dunes preservation movement.
Henry Chandler Cowles went on to become American botanist and ecologist who spent most of his career teaching at the University of Chicago.
His best-known class was a course called Botany 36.
In 1913, Cowles led a group of German scientists on an ecological tour of the United States. The tour included visits to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone Park, and the Lake Michigan dunes.
The Ecological Society of America (ESA) was established as a result of this meeting. An offshoot of the ESA later became the Nature Conservancy.
After World War I, an Indiana state park was established in Cowles’ honor. On December 2, 1965, 56 acres of Porter County, Indiana, were designated Cowles Bog National Natural Landmark in his honor.
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2. The Harsh Topography Of The Area Discouraged Early Settlements
Among the fascinating Indiana Dunes National Parks is how the harsh topography of the area discouraged early settlers.
Most archeological evidence of prehistoric settlement suggests the swamps and sand dunes deterred anything but transient habitation.
Native Americans came to the area during the summer and then migrated to the Kankakee River area to winter.
By the seventeenth century, the Miami, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Wea tribes occupied the region when French explorers arrived to claim the area as “New France.”
3. Three key Individuals Helped To Make Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore A Reality
Before there was Indiana Dunes National Park there was Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. But how did it come into existence?
One of my favorite Indiana Dunes National Park Facts has to do with the important role played by three key individuals. These were the people who helped to make Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore a reality.
These individuals were: (1) Henry Cowles, a botanist from the University of Chicago (discussed earlier); (2) Dorothy R. Buell, an Ogden Dunes resident and English teacher; and (3) Paul H. Douglas, Senator for the State of Illinois.
Enter Dorothy Buell
In 1926, after a ten-year petition by the State of Indiana to preserve the dunes, the Indiana Dunes State Park opened to the public. The State Park was still relatively small in size and scope and the push for a national park continued.
In 1949, Dorothy Buell became involved with the Indiana Dunes Preservation Council (IDPC).
The efforts of Buell resulted in a Save the Dunes Council in 1952.
Save the Dunes Council President Dorothy Buell and council members began a nationwide membership and fundraising drive to buy the land they desperately sought to preserve.
Their first big success was the purchase of 56 acres in Porter County, the Cowles Tamarack Bog.
In recognition of her efforts, the park’s visitor center is named for Dorothy Buell.
The Kennedy Compromise
In the summer of 1961, those fighting to save the dunes began to see greater possibilities for hope.
President John F. Kennedy supported congressional authorization for Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts, which marked the first time federal monies would be used to purchase natural parkland.
President Kennedy also took a stand on the National Lakeshore, outlining a program to link the nation’s economic vitality to a movement for conservation of the natural environment.
This program became known as The Kennedy Compromise, 1963-1964.
Enter Paul Douglas
The Kennedy Compromise entailed the creation of a national lakeshore and a port to satisfy industrial needs.
Then Illinois Senator Paul H. Douglas spoke tirelessly to the public and Congress in a drive to save the dunes, earning him the title of “the third senator from Indiana.”
The park was established in 1966 with the passing of Public Law 89-761, which was authored by Senator Paul H. Douglas.
The bill included a provision that the highly desired Burns Waterway Harbor (Port of Indiana) could only be built with the authorization of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
At the time of its establishment, the park included only 8,330 acres of land and water. However, subsequent expansion bills in 1976, 1980, 1986, and 1992 increased the size of the park to more than 15,000 acres.
On February 15, 2019, the park was officially renamed from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Indiana Dunes National Park (Public Law No: 116-6; written into House Joint Resolution 31) and became the 61st national park in the United States.
4. Indiana Dunes Is A Treasure Trove Of Nature
Another one of the fascinating Indiana Dunes National Park Facts is that the Indiana sand dunes are a treasure trove of nature featuring more than 1,100 flowering plant species and ferns as well as more than 350 species of birds.
According to the National Park Service, forty-six species of mammals, 18 species of amphibians, 23 species of reptiles, 71 species of fish, 60 species of butterflies, and 60 species of dragonflies and damselflies can be found here.
The largest herbivore is the white-tailed deer while the largest predator is the coyote.
Over 350 species of birds have been identified, with 113 of these being regular nesters.
The national park also provides habitat for a great blue heron rookery and the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly.
5. Biological Diversity Was A Key Reason For The Creation Of The Park
Among the lesser known of the Indiana Dunes National Parks Facts is the important role which biological diversity has played in the creation of this national park.
Because the national park is located in several ecological transition zones, its diversity is many times greater than most areas its size.
In fact, Indiana Dunes National Park is fourth in biological diversity among the national parks despite having only 15,000 acres.
Remnant species from past climatic changes have managed to survive in sheltered habitats. The moderating effect of Lake Michigan, along with the great variety of habitats within a small area, explain much of the plant and animal diversity.
As of 2021, it’s the fifth most biodiverse national park in the United States, right behind Yosemite.
Top 10 Indiana Dunes National Park Facts
6. The Park Has Singing Sands
Now here’s a truly amazing Indiana Dunes National Park Fact. The park has singing sands.
“Singing” or “booming” sands are caused by avalanches moving down the face of sand dunes. An audible vibration can develop when sufficient amounts of sand avalanche and compress the air within the moving sand.
Remember that sand itself is mostly made out of quartz and silica left behind by glaciers. Its composition creates an interesting sound when you walk on it, which is why we call it “singing sands.”
There are only a few other places in the world that have singing sands, like Great Sand Dunes National Park.
7. Indiana Dunes Has Tree Graveyards
Just when you thought we couldn’t come up with another fascinating Indiana Dunes National Park Fact we did!
One of the many interesting features caused by living dunes are tree graveyards. These happen when sand blows over a forest, burying it and killing its trees.
When the trees are re-exposed by wind erosion, a tree graveyard appears.
8. Indiana Dunes Features 2 Types Of Dunes
One of the more intriguing Indians Dunes National Parks Facts involves the 2 different types of sand dunes that you can find there.
They are: foredunes and blowout dunes.
Foredunes are close to the beach and covered in vegetation like marram grass. This makes for a more stabilized dune and allows even more plant life to thrive.
Blowout dunes are caused by intense winds that rip the dunes apart. These dunes can sometimes be the result of unapproved trails, or social trails, which gradually turn into bigger and bigger areas of sand.
9. The Park Features 14 Different Trail Systems Covering 50 Miles
One of my favorite Indiana National Park Facts involves the park’s hiking trails.
Next to learning the history of the national parks, my favorite activity is hiking provided that the trails are not too strenuous.
At Indiana Dunes you will experience much more than just sand dunes as you hike through 14 distinct trail systems covering more than 50 miles of trails.
Here’s A Few Of My Favorite Hiking Trails
Among the trails that I enjoy hiking at Indiana Dunes are the following:
Calumet Dunes Trail
Featured hike: Easy, 0.5 miles in length, hike time of 20 minutes.
This short hike on a paved trail features the Calumet Dunes ridge, which was the shoreline of Lake Michigan over 12,000 years ago.
Cowles Bog Trail
Featured hike: Moderate to rugged, 4.7 miles in length, hike time of 4 hours.
This hike highlights an area of such outstanding plant diversity that it was designated as a National Natural Landmark. Explore several distinct habitats including ponds, marshes, swamps, black oak savannas and beaches.
Dune Ridge Trail
Featured hike: Moderate, 0.7 miles in length, hike time of 30 minutes.
This hike offers great views of the extensive wetlands and forests south of this tall, forested dune. Perhaps no other area in the national park will take you through as many diverse habitats in such a short trail.
Mount Baldy Beach Trail
Featured hike: Moderate to rugged, 0.75 miles in length, hike time of 1 hour.
This hike is short with a steep climb down loose sand to reach Mount Baldy beach.
Paul H. Douglas Trail (Miller Woods)
Featured hike: Moderate, 3.4 miles in length, hike time of 2 hours.
This hike through Miller Woods winds through several habitats including wetlands, globally rare black oak savanna, open dunes and beach. The views of the lake and the dunes are incredible. (Source: NPS)
10. Public Enemies Was Filmed At Indiana Dunes
Now if you’re a film buff then you’ll enjoy our final Indiana Dunes National Park Fact.
The 2009 film Public Enemies, starring Johhnny Depp and Christian Bale, was filmed at Indiana Dunes National Park.
The film, which is based on a true story, features Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger (portrayed by Johnny Depp).
Dillinger’s charm and audacity endear him to much of America’s downtrodden public, but he’s also a thorn in the side of J. Edgar Hoover (portrayed by Billy Crudup) and the fledgling FBI.
Desperate to capture the elusive outlaw, Hoover makes Dillinger his first Public Enemy Number One and assigns his top agent, Melvin Purvis (portrayed by Christian Bale), the task of bringing him in dead or alive.
There were actually 27 filming locations for Public Enemies.
The Old Sheriff’s House in Crown Point was the original building from which John Dillinger escaped. This scene was filmed at Crown Point and at Indiana Dunes.
Map Of Indiana Dunes National Park
List Of Indiana Dunes National Park Facts
- Indiana Dunes Was The Birthplace Of Ecology
- The Harsh Topography Of The Area Discouraged Early Settlements
- Three key Individuals Helped To Make Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore A Reality
- Indiana Dunes Is A Treasure Trove Of Nature
- Biological Diversity Was A Key Reason For The Creation Of The Park
- The Park Has Singing Sands
- Indiana Dunes Has Tree Graveyards
- Indiana Dunes Features 2 Types Of Dunes
- The Park Features 14 Different Trail Systems Covering 50 Miles
- Public Enemies Was Filmed At Indiana Dunes
About The People Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and proud dad of these two guys hopelessly obsessed with the national parks.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested joining the adventure, sign up below!