The Indiana Dunes Central Beach

The Park

The Park

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore came into being with the passage of P.L. 89-761, 89th Congress, November 5, 1966. The legislation states that “in order to preserve for the educational, inspirational, and recreational use of the public, certain portions of the Indiana Dunes and other areas of scenic, scientific, and historic interest and recreational value in the State of Indiana, the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to establish and administer the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.”

Purpose of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

  • To preserve, restore, and protect outstanding ecological and biological diversity along with the geologic features that characterize the southern shore of Lake Michigan.
  • To provide access for a large diverse population to experience natural scenic open spaces, historic features, educational, scientific, inspirational, and recreational opportunities.

The Setting

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore includes approximately 15 miles of Lake Michigan’s southwestern shore. The 15,177-acre park is made up of a series of non-contiguous tracts located in LaPorte, Porter, and Lake Counties and is adjacent to 15 cities and towns. The park also includes Indiana Dunes State Park, owned and managed by the Indiana Division of State Parks and Reservoirs, and state-managed Calumet Prairie and Hoosier Prairie. Over nine million people live within a one-hour drive within Indiana and from nearby Illinois and Michigan, making it the third largest metropolitan area in the country.

While many visitors come for recreation on the park’s beaches, the national lakeshore features many natural and historical resources. These include three dedicated State Nature Preserves, four National Natural Landmarks, a National Historic Landmark and more than 50 structures on or eligible for the National Register. In startling contrast to these amenities, the park surrounds three residential communities, abuts three major steel mills and two fossil fuel generating stations, hosts three major railroads, numerous transmission lines, pipelines, two U.S. highways, one toll road, one interstate highway, and miles of roads and streets within or adjacent to its boundary. These features are unusual ones for a national park, yet proximity to vast urban and suburban settings creates an audience of tremendous scope and diversity. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is the twenty-fifth most visited national park in the country, and the leading outdoor recreation destination in the state.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore regularly exceeds two million visitors annually.


From National Park Service: US Department of the Interior

morainesNature observes an easily remembered rule of thumb here:  Age is a function of distance from the lakeshore.

The closer to Lake Michigan, the younger the feature, whether sand dune, wetland, or forest. There are exceptions, to be sure, but you need not be one of them. Why not shed your age and rejuvenate yourself by approaching the water's edge from inland? This is a good way to gain an understanding of the past and of the reasons why this area was placed in the National Park System. The landscape veils many processes - some still mysterious - that have been at work for eons. And this landscape adjoins a compelling deep, one of our five Great Lakes.

Perhaps you have heard that the largest "live" dune here moves away from the lake one giant step each year?