Located just north and west of the Outlet mall is the Mt. Baldy, a part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. This is a large active dune. Currently, it is moving south and headed towards the parking lot. In a few years, the sand may begin blocking the road in the winter.
It's winter when most of the sand moves. The north winds off the lake, push it up the dune until it crests the top and comes tumbling down the south side. So many people have been climbing up and down the south side, that human feet have increase the speed the dune is moving.
At the dawn of the third decade of the nineteenth century, Crawfordsville visionary Major Isaac C. Elston visited Indiana's small sliver of frontage on Lake Michigan, and foreseeing the potential the area represented as a shipping point for Indiana's bounty, purchased most of the land and platted the town of Michigan City on the banks of Trail Creek. Nestled between twin sand dunes known as Yankee Slide and Hoosier Slides, shifting sands from the two huge dunes blew into the river mouth, barring entry to all but vessels of the shallowest draft. Thus, vessels arriving at the river mouth were forced to anchor offshore, with their cargoes transferred to and from the waiting vessels by shallow draft scows known as lighters.
Since that first lighthouse was erected, the harbor has changed. Piers were installed to protect the river entrance and a Pierhead light was constructed. Today, both the original lighthouse, the Old Light, and the Pierhead light still stand. The first is a museum of the lighthouse service and Michigan Cities Harbor. The other is an active light for the small boats using the harbor. For more pictures of these lighthouses, see my Lighthouses travelogue.
Seeing the Light Michigan Cities Old Lighthouse
Once you're parked at Washington Park, head across the street to the zoo. It's small, which means that you'll not be worn out when your done and the kids won't become bored. Plenty of variety in animals, Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! plus zebras, birds and others.
Washington Park is the cities beach and picnic area. There is a parking fee, but other than that, it's wide open sand. It's up current (east) from the marina, which means that all the sand coming down along the lakeshore builds up behind the marina walls. This has created one of the largest beaches in the state. Well, I think it's the largest.
Lighthouse Place is a large outlet mall. The only larger one that I've seen, it north of Chicago (40 miles) at Gurnee Mills. And it's huge. Lighthouse place is large with over 50 stores, maybe even 100, but I doubt it's that many. Lots of options. It's 60+ miles from Chicago, but it's easy to get to from anywhere in northwest Indiana.
The Old Lighthouse Museum in Washington Park in Michigan City is where you can see the only lighthouse in Indiana. You can also learn a little about Michigan City's history here. The museum is small and the admission is $2 for adults. It is only open from March thru December and 1pm-4pm Tuesday-Sunday.
The Barker Mansion, a 38 room English Manor style home, is the former residence of local millionaire-industrialist, John H. Barker, who built the Haskell & Barker Railroad Car Company, which later became Pullman-Standard.
In 1910, 5 years after the mansion was completed, both Mr. and Mrs. Barker passed away, leaving the mansion to their only child, Catherine, who later donated the structure to Michigan City.
Barker Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I've only viewed this building from the outside but tours are available at the hours listed below (you might want to double check at the phone number listed below)
Monday - Friday: 10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m. & 1:00 p.m. (June 1st - Oct 31)
Saturday - Sunday: Noon & 2:00 p.m.
I visited Michigan City as part of my circle tour of Lake Michigan in March. Sam Barnett - a great VTer - tore himself away from his workplace and met me here at Washington Park. He proceeded to give a tremendous personalized tour of the Indiana Dunes, full of the natural history and political history of this fragile yet resilient biota. Sam was the first VT person that I met in "analog space" - and I hope to be able to reciprocrate someday.
the Indiana Dunes National Park system adjoins Michigan City. Mt. Baldy, one of North America's last living sand dunes, is ont he city's West Side and is worth a visit. The city's Washington Park is on the lakefront and offers views of the lake and our prized Lighthouse which is one of the most photographed items in the Midwest. If nature doesn't get you, then shopping at the Lighthouse Place outlet center, or going gaming on our casino boat can give you other things to do.
We'll add more information in coming weeks.
Washington Park is mantained by the city and offers plenty of recreational opportunities. In addition to a sandy beach, the refurbished 19th century bandstand hosts concerts. The statue on the right commemorates those who served in World War I. Across the street is the small Washington Park Zoo. A WPA built lookout tower is, sadly, closed to the public due to safety concerns and might be demolished.
Entrance is $2/$4 (weekdays/weekends). The zoo is an additional $3. Obey the parking and directional signs unless you want to end up with a towed car or shredded tires.
This was the odd lakescape in March, before the spring "break-up." The smokestacks of Gary are visible in the distance.
This bare, "living" dune certainly deserves its name. This is the easternmost unit of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore system. Please see my travelogue.