One Tank Trips: Indiana Dunes

April 30, 2009 12:35:44 PM PDT
This week, we're bringing back our special series, "One Tank Trips." These are fun places you can visit on a tank of gas.

INDIANA DUNES

Indiana Dunes, National Lakeshore, a national park since 1966, is a geological gem filled with a variety of habitats ranging from forests dotted with blossoming trees to the marshes, dominated by cattails. Known for the sand dunes along the southern edge of Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes are so much more than beach!

"It's a lot more! It's 15,000 acres and just a little bit of it is on the shoreline! It's over 45 miles of trails, historic buildings and education programs for kids and lots of things to see and do," said Costa Dillon, superintendent, Indiana National Lakeshore.

The dunes were created by fierce winds coming off Lake Michigan, carrying sand and depositing it on plants and hills. As the lake level dropped at the end of the ice age and the shoreline receded, the dunes were pushed upward, creating sandy hills. Because there is little vegetation to protect them, dunes move! At 125 feet, Mt. Baldy is the largest moving dune in the park! It moves southeast, away from the lake at the rate of 4-feet per year!

South of the shoreline are miles of trails, perfect for bird watching.

"Lots of wildlife this time of year, you've got your waterfowl migrating back to do their nesting," said Kip Walton, park ranger, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. "You've got your ducks and your Canadian geese, all starting to nest now."

For the next couple of weeks, you'll have an opportunity to capture the glow of the early wildflowers. The brilliant yellow marsh marigolds, the deep red trillium, and dainty violets. There are over 1,400 species of plants in the park, including orchids!

"We have 28 species of orchids in this park, that's more species of orchids than Hawaii has native to Hawaii," said Dillon.

Those orchids should be blooming in just a few weeks.

The Little Calumet River runs through quite a bit of the park, and while fishing is phenomenal, kayaking is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of the park. Dan Plath, of the newly formed Northwest Indiana Paddling Association offered to give Roz a lesson!

"It's designed with the offset to cut through the air like that," said Plath.

Back on dry land, we explored some historic sites. The Baily Homestead - one of the first European settlements in Indiana in 1822. The century of progress homes - they were part of the 1933 chicago world's fair.

The park offers a variety of programs for school groups, Girl and Boy Scouts, and the general public. Next month, a very special program will honor the Indiana Dunes Lakeshore - National Geogrpahic's Bio-Blitz!

"Scientists will be coming here to investigate what lives here in the National Park, so it's a 24-hour inventory of all the living creatures that are in this park," said John Hayes, executive director, Indiana Dunes Learning Center.

Whether you come for the flora or fauna, the bogs or the beaches, a visit to the Indiana Dunes will not disappoint!

INDIANA DUNES: www.nps.gov/INDU
Northwest Indiana Paddling Association www.nwipa.org
BioBlitz www.nationalgeographic.com


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