On February 15, 2019, Indiana got its first ever National Park! Previously known as Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, this new National Park has a lot to offer both young and old alike! According to the National Park Service website, “whether you enjoy scouting for rare species of birds or flying kites on the sandy beach, the national park’s 15,000 acres will continually enchant you. Hikers will enjoy 50 miles of trails over rugged dunes, mysterious wetlands, sunny prairies, meandering rivers and peaceful forests.” Indiana Dunes National Park sounds like a treasure and I am excited to add it to my bucket list!
What does it mean to be a National Park?
While this change to a National Park has been 103 years in the making for Indiana, what exactly does that mean for Indiana Dunes National Park? First of all, according to the National Park Service Website, all “units of the system have equal legal standing in a national system.” So, legally speaking, not much will change for Indiana Dunes National Park in terms of funding and operations as it was already federally protected land. That said, there are a few distinctions between parks and lakeshores. National Parks are, generally speaking, “large natural places having a wide variety of attributes, at times including significant historic assets. Hunting, mining and consumptive activities are not authorized” in National Parks. According to the National Park Service, “National lakeshores, all on the GreatLakes, closely parallel the seashores in character and use.”
How will becoming a National Park affect Indiana Dunes National Park?
So, if the funding and protection remains close to the same, what does becoming a National Park for Indiana Dunes mean? First of all, receiving National Park status will do a lot for the park’s notoriety. While most tourists will never see all the National parks, monuments, lakeshores, preserves, historical and other national sites in a lifetime, many photographers and tourists strive to at least see the National Parks if they are in the area. This increased status to a National Park will hopefully bring more crowds to Indiana, increasing the economic flow and ecotourism. I know that I, personally, have a bucket list item to see all 61 National Parks in my lifetime. Now Indiana has been added to my list!
What is there to see at Indiana Dunes National Park?
With this added popularity, gaining National Park status will also allow more people to learn about these protected lands. Since I had never before heard of the Indiana Dunes, I have had the opportunity to research and learn more about this great park. I love the idea of finding “sand and solitude” in this National Park. There are countless hiking trails, picnic areas, swimming & beach-going opportunities, camping, and even apple festivals! Indiana Dunes is home to over 1,000 different vascular plant species as well as flocks of unique birds and wildlife.
In addition to the biodiversity, Indiana Dunes is also known for it’s 15 miles of waterfront property as well as sand dunes, as mentioned in its name. Photographing sand dunes is an amazing experience in and of itself! I loved the light and dark shadows that were created when I photographed the Oceanic sand dunes near Pismo Beach! I am anxious to see what photography opportunities await at Indiana Dunes National Park! For a complete list of things to do at Indiana Dunes, visit the NPS website!
Although having a 61st National Park will have some negative effects, like increased crowds and the need to create more Travel Stamps and National Park Maps and Puzzles, I believe that the benefits far outweigh the setbacks. I hope you get to visit Indiana Dunes National Park for yourself one day!
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