Indiana Dunes—a 15,000-acre national lakeshore on the southern coast of Lake Michigan—became the 61st national park in the United States after it was redesignated under the omnibus spending bill signed by President Donald Trump on February 15.
Located in the northwestern corner of Indiana about 50 miles from Chicago, this is the state’s first national park. As a national lakeshore, it already drew approximately 3.5 million visitors a year, making it the state’s most-visited site. However, Indiana’s tourism board is hopeful that the new designation will help raise the park’s profile, bringing more visitors to the area from outside the region.
“It will put Indiana on the map more than it already is, for people who don’t know where it is,” Amy Howell, the director of communications for Visit Indiana, told CNN Travel. “It has more plant and animal species than Hawaii, and I don’t think people realize that’s in Indiana.”
Known for its beaches and Mount Baldy, a 140-foot dune, there’s much more to experience at the new national park than sand. In fact, there are more than 1,100 native plants at Indiana Dunes (it ranks fourth in plant diversity among all of the National Park Service sites). The park includes 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, and moving inland, you can also explore prairies, swamps, bogs, oak savannas, rivers, and forests across 50 miles of hiking trails.
To celebrate the renaming, NPS employees posted a photo on Instagram of the team fixing an outdated sign at the entrance by covering the word “lakeshore” with a handmade sign that reads “park.”
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Indiana Dunes National Park (@indianadunesnps) on Feb 15, 2019 at 12:52pm PST
Before Indiana Dunes, the most recent national parks to be added to the National Park Service were Gateway Arch National Park in Missouri in 2018 and Pinnacles National Park in California in 2013.
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Lyndsey Matthews Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.