How Indiana Dunes National Park Was Established, Decades of Effort

Hello good people!

I am happy to report that I’ve officially begun my internship!…but not as planned. Ç’est la vie ( French for “That’s life” o cómo decimos en Español, “Así  es la vida”). Although I’m a little bummed to not be able to experience INDU’s beauty and work alongside park staff irl (in real life), I’m ready to get down to work. Plus, it’s not like I won’t be able to visit INDU sometime in the future (hopefully sooner rather than later).

Due to my situation I have been doing a lot of online reading to learn about INDU. I’d like to share some quick facts about INDU’s history and individuals’ persistent work to establish the park. Think of this as a history cheat sheet. Ready? Let’s learn!


INDU History 101



Henry Cowles, a botanist and graduate student from the University of Chicago, discovered the process of succession at Indiana Dunes. He published his findings in the article titled Ecological Relations of the Vegetation on the Sand Dunes of Lake Michigan . His findings put INDU on the international radar as INDU became the birthplace of the science of ecology.



Cowles, The Prairie Club, Chicago businessman Stephen Mather (the first director of the NPS), and others proposed Sand Dunes National Park, but their proposition was not approved by Congress. WWI made industrial development and national defense the priority, thus a lot of South Lake Michigan’s land was developed for such.

Even today, the park’s is surrounded by industrial facilities making it’s location rather unique. “Today the park surrounds three residential communities, about three major steel mills and two fossil fuel electricity-generating stations, includes three major railroads, numerous transmission lines, pipelines, two U.S. highways, one toll road, one interstate highway, and miles of roads and streets within or adjacent to its boundary” (N.P.S., & D.O.I. (2016, July 01). Foundation Document Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore [PDF]).



Indiana Dunes State Park was established after a 10-year petition by the State of Indiana 



English teacher and Ogden Dunes resident Dorothy Buell established “Save the Dunes Council”, a non-profit advocating the preservation of the remaining dunes in Northwest Indiana 



Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore- The dunes were established as a national lakeshore as a result of Buell’s and many others tireless efforts (including her partnerships with  Dr. Rueben Strong—Chicago Conservation Council President— and U.S. Senator of Illinois, Paul H. Douglas)


February 15, 2019 

Congress authorized the name change from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Indiana Dunes National Park, making INDU the 61st national park. HOO-RAY!!!!


With that said, I want to invite you to travel with me to INDU at the click of a button!


Here is a video to introduce you to the dunes:


Plant Succession at INDU:


This is a summary of INDU’s foundation document (every national park has one):


Indu’s full Foundation document:


More extensive history of Indiana Dunes National Park


Learn more about Dorothy R. Buell!!!


Save the Dunes Council

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