The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Part 2

Lucas had the day off of school when I drove over to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, so I took him along for the ride. The shelf ice goes out pretty far now, but we could still hear the icy open water lapping at the far edge.

Ice is good for the lake because it slows down evaporation in the early spring.

Snow on the dunes can take interesting forms as the blowing sand covers, shapes, then moves off to reveal miniature snow sculptures.

I mentioned in my previous post that this area has incredible biodiversity and some habitats not found anywhere else on the planet. There are arctic and desert plants growing side by side here, trees normally found in the south grow on one dune, and trees normally found further north on the next. There are endangered plants and insects here.

A preserved specimen of the endangered Karner blue butterfly sits on wild lupine flowers in the photo to the left. The numbers of Karner blues are dwindling due to loss of habitat. The wild lupine flourishes in areas post-burn, and as parks have tried to suppress the natural cycle of fires, they have reduced the available area for the lupine to thrive.

Rangers are trying to reverse this by doing controlled burns in the park.

The next time you're driving around the bottom of Lake Michigan, take some time to explore the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It's your park.


  1. I see that you're spending a lot of time on the lake in winter, too. Next challenge: the 1000 mile trek on snowshoes . . . (Miss Sadie, the Cowboy and I will be glad to join you for a mile or so.)

    You make a good point about the value of the dunes and their diversity. I wonder whether controlled burns and other management techniques can truly hold back change. I'm not opposed to trying, I just suspect that we are doomed to disappointment. With one great storm, the lake can wipe out an entire ecosystem--and replace it with something else. I hope the lake will spare the lupine and the Karner blue.

  2. A 1,000 mile snowshoe adventure would be quite an undertaking! Though it might make crossing all those little streams a bit easier if they were all frozen solid.

    Doing controlled burns is actually going back to the natural cycle of things. For quite some time, fires were prevented or discouraged or actively fought in the parks (Smokey the Bear had a bit to do with this...).

    I recently read THE BIG BURN by Timothy Egan about the largest forest fire in America's (recorded) history, during Taft's administration. An engaging read and a thoughtful early history of fighting fires and how short sighted that can be in the wild.

    Hope you and Miss Sadie and the Cowboy are keeping warm.