Indiana Dunes National Park is located in the northwestern corner of Indiana, of the United States along the shores of Lakes Michigan. The park covers an area of 23.54 square miles (60.97 sq km).
Originally named the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the protected area runs 25 miles (40 km) along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The shoreline terrain is comprised of sand dunes, wetlands, prairie, river, and forest ecosystems.
The sand dunes are the pinnacle attraction of the park. The sand dunes are constantly shifting, and some may reach heights of around 200 feet (60 m).
It is amazing how much diversity is found in such a small region of the state. One of the unique facets of the park is the rich unique vegetation that is located amongst the dunes.
There are three creeks and a river that meanders across the park. The three creeks include Salt Creek, Trail Creek, and Dunes Creek. The river is called the East Arm Little Calumet River. Each of these terminates into Lake Michigan.
The park has over 1,400 species of vascular plants making it the 8th most biologically diverse US national park when it comes to vegetation. Some are either threatened or endangered species.
Birds are the most prevalent wildlife species with over 350 different species. There are 71 species of fish, followed by 41 mammalian species, and 51 species of amphibians and reptiles together. Some of the popular wildlife species include bald eagle, great blue heron, Canada geese, red fox, opossum, raccoon, and white-tailed deer.
Indiana Dunes Highlights
The sand dunes and beach terrain are probably the highlights for most people. Walking on the beach, listing to the lake’s waves flowing against the shore, and observing some of the wonderful species of birds flying across the skies is a rather tranquil experience.
There are more than 370 species of flowering plants with at least 13 of these rated as threatened or in danger of extinction. The flowering plants arrive in the spring and fluctuate over the summer providing a long season of flowering plants to observe while hiking and exploring the Indiana Dunes.
Trails of Indiana Dunes National Park
The national park has over 50 miles (80.5 km) spread across 14 managed trails that allow visitors to explore the dunes of the national park.
Calumet Dunes Trail: This is one of the easiest and most popular quick trails that gives a taste of the dunes. This half-mile (0.8 km) trail is a paved making it easy to walk along the Calumet Dunes ridge and look out over Lake Michigan.
Great Marsh Trail: This is another easy trail over a distance of 1.3 miles (2.09 km). The journey provides views of the extensive wetlands associated with the Lake Michigan watershed.
Dune Ridge Trail: This is another short trail with a moderate rating. The hike traverses along the forested dunes with views of the impressive wetlands and neighboring forests. The trail is 0.7 miles (1.12 km) out and back.
Heron Rookery Trail: This is a longer 3.3-mile (5.31 km) hike that is still rated easy. This trek provides the most abundant collection of wildflowers in the park. It is popular because of the picturesque fields of flowers during the spring and early summer.
Pinhook Bog Trail: This is a combination of trails that cover 3 miles (4.82 km) collectively. The first half of the trail known as the upland hike meander through beech and maple forest. The second portion of the trail referred to as the Bog Trail follows the path to a bog created by a depression in the moraine. The trail is rated moderate. This is an excellent opportunity for unique vegetation and potential birds in and around the bog.
Indiana Dunes Highlights
- Flowering Plants
- Remote isolated tranquility
- All Trails, Best Trails in Indian Dunes National Park, https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/indiana/indiana-dunes-national-park, retrieved June 2020.
- Britannica, Indian Dunes National Park, https://www.britannica.com/place/Indiana-Dunes, retrieved June 2020.
- Indiana Dunes, Official Guide, https://www.indianadunes.com/, retrieved June 2020.
- National Geographic, Complete National Parks of the United States, National Geographic Publishing, Washington DC.
- National Geographic, Guide to the National Parks of the United States, National Geographic Society, 2003.
- National Geographic, National Parks of North America, Canada-United States-Mexico, National Geographic Society, 1995.
- National Park Service, Indiana Dunes, https://www.nps.gov/indu/index.htm, retrieved June 2020.