The uniqueness of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is the result of natural processes that are not duplicated on this scale anywhere else on earth. Nowhere else is there a 300 mile long lake taking glacial sand from its east and west sides, then depositing that sand in 250 foot high dunes under the power of strong north winds and waves rivaling the ocean. The resulting environment is a unique series of long dunes separated by marshes.
This environment has attracted plants and animals into the dunes. With all this water and wild area, migratory birds funnel their migrations into these wetlands, and the dunes also harbors some species of plants not found anywhere else on earth.
1) Remarkable Species Diversity
Factors that include geological processes, climate, weather, and the geographical position of Lake Michigan came together at Indiana Dunes to create remarkable species diversity within a variety of ecosystems, providing outstanding opportunities to appreciate the rich ecological relationships that nurture and sustain our civilization.
2) Legacy of Scientific Inquiry
Beginning a legacy of scientific inquiry and education that continues today, Henry Cowles, a botanist from the University of Chicago, published an article entitled “Ecological Relations of the Vegetation on Sand Dunes of Lake Michigan” in the Botanical Gazette in 1899 that brought international attention to and inspired the efforts to preserve the intricate ecosystems existing on the dunes. Such research at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is increasingly vital, helping us address current threats to our world that include human impact both locally and globally.
3) Land Use Strategies Over 10,000 Years
The cultural resources of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore demonstrate a wide range of land use strategies over more than 10,000 years, revealing the dynamic relationship between humans and the environment and our changing perceptions of the value of natural environments, and guiding us to decisions that are vital to our survival.
4) Natural Setting for Millions of People
Situated close to one of America’s largest metropolitan areas, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore provides a natural setting for millions of people to experience scenic beauty, the wonders of nature, artistic inspiration, and recreational opportunities, reminding us of the costs and benefits of urbanization and industry, and of our need as humans to seek renewal of body, mind, and soul.
5) Reflects National Struggle to Balance Urbanization, Industry, and Conservation
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the scene of intensive public interest and passion regarding its preservation for over 100 years, demonstrates the national struggle between the needs of urbanization, industry, and conservation; reflects the historical national and state park preservation movements; and serves as both model and “cautionary tale” in the fields of resource acquisition, preservation, and restoration.