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Indiana Dunes State Park a Place to Camp

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The Indiana Dunes are a special place and a great camping destination.

You don’t have to travel to the Gulf of Mexico or either coast to experience long, white sandy beaches stretching along the shoreline of water you can’t see across. America’s Great Lakes are an inland ocean, and I am particularly fond of Lake Michigan.

I’m pretty sure it was in the 5th grade our class took a field trip to the Indiana Dunes State Park. This is one of the first moments I realized how lucky I was to belong to a family of campers. I was already familiar with the Dunes because we had spent many weekends in the state park campground. While my friends and classmates were being exposed to this incredible natural world for the first time, I told stories about my favorite sand dunes and trails.

Indiana Dunes State Park was created in 1925. It consists of 2,182 acres with more than three miles of beach along Lake Michigan’s southern shore. The landscape includes numerous habitats harboring plant and wildlife species not found elsewhere in the state. Miles of trail pass through black oak forest, patches of wildflowers, white pines and ferns. The dunes, though, are the star of the show.

The largest sand dunes are nearly 200 feet tall. When you are standing up on top, looking down the wind swept slope to the beach stretching out before the water, you’re filled with a sense of immensity not often found in Indiana. Set out in a full sprint down a dune and most often you will wipeout out before reaching the beach. Your legs are unable to keep up with the high, gravity-assisted speed.

Families looking for something to do over the Fourth of July holiday may want to consider a trip to northwest Indiana. Camp at Indiana Dunes State Park and watch the Chicago fireworks from a Hoosier stretch of sand. Explore the beaches of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, too.

The campground has 140 sites, most of which are in the shade. It’s open all year and reservations are available. Full hookup sites are available for those in an RV, as are perfect places to pop-up a tent amongst the trees. There are two restrooms and shower houses, both of which park staff keep nice and clean. The campground is an easy walk to and from the beach.

The values of camping are many. Few activities offer a greater venue for communing with nature. Camping allows us to slow down and experience simplicity as our ancestors did only a couple of hundred years ago: sleeping in primitive shelters, heating and cooking with fire, watching the stars slide across the night sky and listening to the melodious sounds of animals and insects. Camping is meant to be easy. It is meant to eliminate stress. So don’t make it stressful. Select the right equipment, no more or less than you need, and relax.

Inside the park, there is a section of beach dedicated to swimming. There are lifeguards from Memorial through Labor Day. The all sand beach is beautiful and stretches as far as you can see. The section outside the designated swimming area is open to explore.

Indiana’s sliver of Lake Michigan may be small, but it’s mighty. Being the southern tip of the lake, Indiana’s water is usually the warmest. At this time of the year, warm water has less to do with fishing than it has to do with swimming, but the two can go hand in hand. Don’t forget to pack a fishing rod.

See you down the trail…
Brandon Butler

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