A bill introduced by Indiana Congressman Pete Visclosky has passed the House and been sent to the United States Senate. The legislation, known as H.R.1488, would establish Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as a national park. Indiana Dunes is already afforded a protected status as a national lakeshore, and changing its designation to national park would provide it with additional funding. If H.R.1488 passes the Senate, Indiana Dunes would be the first national park in Indiana.
Indiana Dunes is located on the south shore of Lake Michigan. The dunes were formed about 15,000 years ago when the glaciers that covered much of Indiana retreated. After the glaciers diminished, they filled Lake Michigan with meltwater. A dominant current in Lake Michigan developed; this current approaches the shore at an angle. When the current deposits sand from the lakebed above the shoreline, the sand dries out and is blown into dunes. Some of the Indiana Dunes move 60 feet per year, while others only drift 4 feet. The area was occupied in prehistory by Hopewell peoples, but European trappers later passed through the dunes in search of game. At one time, the U.S. Army had a missile base located within the boundaries of the present-day park. The base was decommissioned after Indiana Dunes was designated a national lakeshore in 1966.
In addition to its geological features, Indiana Dunes is also home to significant native plants like yellow gentian, white baneberry and birthwort. Indiana Dunes also shelters the endangered Indian bat and the threatened Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake. The lakeshore provides a safe haven for white-tailed deer, Canada geese and great blue herons.