June 16, 2017 - Bruce Rowe, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Work is complete to make visits to the nearly 17 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park even more welcoming for millions of visitors this summer. The two parks, located on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, encompass the Indiana Dunes, the state’s most popular tourist destination, which attracted more than 3 million visitors in 2016.
“The Indiana dunes are truly a national treasure,” said Natalie Johnson, Executive Director of Save the Dunes. “They offer an unparalleled nature experience, including an amazing variety of wildlife and plants, wonderful hiking trails, and the kind of outdoor adventure you rarely find so close to home. It’s the best beach vacation you can find away from an ocean.”
Efforts to make the Indiana Dunes a worry-free experience began after reports that a steel mill spilled hexavalent chromium into the Burns Waterway near Lake Michigan. The Environmental Protection Agency tested hundreds water samples after the spill and found no significant trace of the chemical. More recent tests along Indiana Dunes beaches shows the water is fine, but the National Park Service decided to conduct weekly water tests to ensure the highest water quality.
Later this year, the National Park Service hopes to reopen access to the popular beach at Mount Baldy, which has been closed since 2013 after the hazards were discovered on the dune face. Extensive testing found the beach safe. It will reopen once work is completed on a secure trail down Mount Baldy, to provide access. The Mount Baldy dune will remain closed, except for ranger-led tours.
In addition, the parks have developed a variety of special visitor programs during the summer.
At the National Lakeshore, park staff will offer free “Beach Fun Friday” activities at West Beach. Join park staff each Friday at 1:00 pm to try out kayaks and paddleboards in Lake Michigan. After sunset, gather around a beach campfire to enjoy stories and song while toasting some marshmallows. The program is offered from June 16 through September 1.
At the Indiana Dunes State Park, swimming is allowed only when lifeguards are on duty. However, for the first time in decades, the lifeguard staff has been expanded to allow swimming seven days per week on both the eastern and western portions of the beach. In recent years, swimming was allowed only on the western section on weekdays. The family-friendly beach will conduct a fireworks program on June 29 and will host the popular sand sculpture contest on July 8.
For more information about the upcoming beach season, contact Indiana Dunes State Park at 219-926-1952 or Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore at 219-395-1882.