Feds create Indiana’s first national park on dunes of Lake Michigan shore

WASHINGTON (WISH) – As part of the spending measure approved Friday to avoid another government shutdown, Indiana got its first national park. 

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is now the Indiana Dunes National Park, according to a news release from federal legislators serving the state.

The 23.4-square-mile park runs along 15 miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan. It’s the 61st national park, the release said.

According to the National Park Service, the designation culminates an effort that began in 1899. That’s when two men and a woman published the article “Ecological Relations of the Vegetation on Sand Dunes of Lake Michigan” in the Botanical Gazette. The article brought international attention to the intricate ecosystems of the dunes. 

An effort began in Chicago in 1916 to protect the dunes, but World War I disrupted the effort. The site eventually became the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966. 

The state also has an adjacent park with 3.4 square miles on more than three miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Indiana Dunes State Park was established in 1925.


Democrat Rep. Pete Visclosky

“I am heartened that because of the support of our U.S. Senators, the entire Indiana Congressional delegation, and numerous Northwest Indiana organizations, we have successfully titled the first National Park in our state.  This action provides our shoreline with the recognition it deserves, and I hope further builds momentum to improve open and public access to all of our region’s environmental wonders.”

Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski 

“I’m thrilled that the Indiana Dunes will be our state’s first National Park.  The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has long been a treasured place for Hoosiers to relax, explore, and enjoy all that nature has to offer, as well as a strong driver of our local economy.  The Indiana Dunes National Park will draw even more visitors from across the country, strengthening Indiana’s economy and boosting the outdoor recreation industry that is so vital to our region.”

Republican Sen. Todd Young

Three key individuals helped make Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore a reality: Henry Cowles, a botanist from the University of Chicago; Paul H. Douglas, Senator for the State of Illinois; and Dorothy R. Buell, an Ogden Dunes resident and English teacher. Henry Cowles published an article entitled “Ecological Relations of the Vegetation on Sand Dunes of Lake Michigan,” in the Botanical Gazette in 1899 that established Cowles as the “father of plant ecology” in North America and brought international attention to the intricate ecosystems existing on the dunes.

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