I've lived within 15 miles of IDSP all by life. We spent many a hot summer day at the beach, or hiking. I've camped & picnicked there also. It's a beautiful state park, arguably the most beautiful in Indiana. Lake Michigan is the main attraction. Lake Michigan, as with all the Great Lakes could be an ocean sea (except for the fact it's freshwater). It doesn't have tides, but it DOES have rip currents. During the summer swimming season the beach is closed to swimmers when the wind is in the right direction because of these rip currents. It's no joke & every year people (usually teenage boys) die when they swim anyway & get caught in them. During the winter ice shelf forms along the shoreline. People are tempted to walk out on the ice, which can extend for many yards (or in some years miles). DON"T DO IT! For the locals who live by any of the Great Lakes know it is a death wish to stroll out on them.
This state park was established in 1925. It's not to be confused with the National Lakeshore, which was established in the 1970s. It was done mostly to save the Dunes, which were in the process of being destroyed by the steel mills moving in. Development also played a part. The steel mills which I've noticed many visitors deplore due to the eyesore they present; have been the economic savior to The Region. At the East end of the park, down the beach the structure you see is NOT a nuclear reactor! It's actually a cooling tower for NIPSCO, a regional power company.
The Dunes has many very good trails, most of which can be made into loops. Trail 8 is most definitely rugged, so take your time! There are wetlands in the interior of the park. Trail 2 combined with trail 10 is a favorite.
At the beach, there's a pavilion that houses a gift shop & refreshments in the summer. There are lifeguards in the summer also. They are VERY strict & it pays to listen to them. They are trying to keep you alive during your visit! Keep a very close eye on your kids also. Drownings are all too common.
There's also a nature center, which is the best we've seen in an Indiana State Park. This is next to the campground. The campground was recently redone with brand new bath houses. As usual, choose a perimeter site away from dumpsters & pit toilets (there are 2). There are NO alcoholic beverages allowed at the Dunes State Park, including the campground.
There are numerous picnic areas, including Wilson Shelter, which I've spent many a time with Scouts & family enjoying the outdoors. At one time they rented cross country skis there, but that was a long time ago.
The Calumet bike trail is right outside the gates of the park, & it's a nice ride. 9.2 miles & they are improving it every year.
The South Shore train is also within easy drive or bike ride to the station. Chicago sightseers will have an easy time taking the train in, instead of paying an arm & a leg to park in the city.
The National Lakeshore is another attraction & you go by the Visitor Center on 49 on your way to the state park. They can hook you up with info.
Hope this helps! Have fun :)
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