indiana dunes

Indiana Dunes Named America's Next National Park

The Hoosier State officially has its first national park.

Along the Indiana coast of Lake Michigan lies the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, a 15-mile-long, 15,000-acre beach near and dear to many Indianans. This sandy slice of the Midwest features a variety of geography, including sand dunes as tall as 192 feet, sandy beaches, woodlands, savannas and prairies.

For more than a century, rumors have circulated the northwest Indiana area, raising hope that the Indiana Dunes would one day become Indiana Dunes National Park.

Today, those rumors will finally hold some truth, as President Donald Trump re-designated the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as the United States' 61st national park.

Now, it didn't come easy. Efforts to make the Dunes a national park began as early as 1916, when Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, made the initial suggestion.

However, World War I would ultimately stall the process, resulting in the creation of the Indiana Dunes State Park in 1925, and then the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966.

The Dunes started gaining traction again when U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, began to lead a staunch effort to earn national park status. In fact, he won unanimous approval in 2017 to re-designate the Dunes as a national park, but would hit a roadblock in the Senate.

The Trump administration opposed the decision, claiming it lacked the variety in resources and large land and water areas needed to become a American national park.

Fortunately for the Hoosier State, Visclosky never relented, going as far as fitting it into "must pass" spending legislation, backing Trump up against a potential second partial government shutdown.

"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," Visclosky said in a statement.

As part of the new legislation, the 1.6-mile Miller Woods trail, which is situated within the park, will now be called "Paul H. Douglas Trail," honoring the Illinois U.S. senator who played a role in the installation of the national lakeshore back in 1966.

The state can expect a boost in tourist activity, which is already doing quite well. In 2018, the new national park and the Indiana Dunes State Park collectively saw more than 3.6 million people.

"This designation certifies what we as Hoosiers have known all along—Indiana Dunes is not just a state treasure but a national treasure as well," U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said in a statement. "I commend Rep. Visclosky for his perseverance on this important Hoosier priority. Without his tireless advocacy, this goal would not have been accomplished. I look forward to visiting Indiana's first national park very soon."