Whether you're coming from out of town or you live nearby, stop by the Visitor Center. Housed in this former church building is short film, a small bookstore with many interesting books and items, plenty of informative brochures and the indespensible system map. If you intend on fully exploring the Dunes, grab a couple copies. I've gone through five in the past two years! But seriously, the map surpasses the excellent standards of the NPS and will help you find your way around the 15,000 (and growing!) acre, 25 linear-mile National Lakeshore.
ýýýAnd speak with the staff. They know the Dunes inside and out and their enthusiasim for the ecosystem shows. They can and will help you tailor your visit to match your interests.
Fondest memory: So who was Dorothy Buell? Well, she was a woman who, at an age when most people retire into their "declining years", declared that "we are prepared to spend the rest of our lives if necessary to save the Dunes." She remains a huge inspiration to many, especially me!
In 1952, the sixty-five year old Buell founded the Save The Dunes Council in an effort to protect the Indiana Dunes for public use and enjoyment from the destructive hand of shortsighted industrial capitalists who thought the future of the region lay in the complete industrialization of the lakeshore. Both sides achieved a partial victory: Save The Dunes helped bring about the creation of the National Lakeshore in 1966 but only after some of the most beautiful areas were leveled for development of two steel mills and a power plant. Today the mills standing rusting, near bankruptcy and at a fraction of previous output, bringing hardship to thousands of laid-off workers. Guess who was wrong?
Although some beautiful areas were lost, the work of the Council and Buell?s leadership cannot be understated. Everyone who enjoys this area owes tremendous gratitude to her. And hey, those soon to be empty mills can always be torn down and nature can work its slow magic in restoring the area to full glory.
Save The Dunes Council
Be aware of the operating hours for the various parts of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Sections close either at sunset or 9 PM, times should be listed at the entrances and they differ from site to site. Check with the visitors center to be on the safe side.
Don't take this lightly, park rangers are very strict about patroling the areas at closing time and they won't hesitate to let you know you're breaking the law. They do this not to be assholes, but because (sadly) there have been unfortunate incidents resulting in the loss of life at the Dunes.