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Although conservation efforts in the area started back in 1899, Indiana Dunes was designated the nation’s 61st national park just last year.
Indiana Dunes National Park, which also surrounds an Indiana state park of the same name, encompasses 15 miles of Lake Michigan’s southernmost shoreline and has 50 miles of trails that take hikers over rugged dunes and inviting beaches, and through prairies, woodlands and bogs. The park’s biodiversity attracts birders from all over the country since more than 200 avian species have been spotted there.
“Everyone wants to see Lake Michigan, of course, but there’s a lot more to do here, too,” said Paul Labovitz, park superintendent. “We are happy to lead people on spring wildflower tours, to cultural sites and can also get groups access to the massive bird migrations.”
Indiana Dunes has hosted senior groups from Chicago, athletic teams, tour groups from China, scouts and many others, Labovitz said. Old-fashioned walking is probably the most popular activity in the park, and hikes can range from an easy 10-minute self-guided walk to interpretive, ranger-led excursions as long as six hours.
“There are 15,000 acres to explore,” Labovitz said.
Guided canoe trips are another popular option for tours, as is a new interpretive boat tour of the lakeshore that can accommodate 150 people. It is chartered out of nearby Michigan City, Indiana.
“We’re also talking to partners to have Great Lakes cruise ships stopping soon at the Port of Indiana, so we are putting together excursions to accommodate those, too,” Labovitz said. The National Park Service and tour operators often work closely with Lorelei Weimer, executive director of Indiana Dunes Tourism, Labovitz said.
Tours often make their first contact with park rangers and Indiana Dunes Tourism at the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center in Porter. Tours typically spend 30 to 60 minutes at the visitor center watching a short orientation film, perusing exhibits and picking up brochures for other area attractions, Labovitz said. There’s abundant motorcoach parking at this facility and elsewhere within the park, he said.
For more information, call 219-395-1882 or visit nps.gov/indu.
Article by Mark Shuman