Indiana Dunes State Park, Porter County, Indiana

The Indiana Dunes State Park is located in Porter County off U.S. 12 in northern Indiana and encompasses 2182 acres of beach, dunes, and wooded areas along Lake Michigan. The Dunes has many activities to choose from. The Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center, a little ways south on Indiana 49, has staffers who can answer visitors' questions. Further south on Route 49 is the town of Valparaiso, home of the Valpo Velvet Ice Cream Company, which is a great place to stop after a long day of pre-season beach-strolling.

The Indiana Dunes State Park is open year around and is free during the off-season. The Dunes were established in 1925 as naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts sought to preserve this unique area for all to enjoy. The entrance to the park features architecture of the Art Deco style, which became popular in the United States and Europe after the First World War.

The Indiana Dunes State Park swimming beach is just on the other side of the bath house. The swimming beach is small but on either side the two miles of additional shoreline are open for beach combing, sunbathing, or just relaxing. The Dunes are open from 7 am to 11 pm. There are many naturalist programs on the weekends.

On June 10, 1911, the 154-foot J.D. Marshall was sent to retrieve the sunken Muskegon in Michigan City and take its parts to Chicago to salvage. The heavy-laden Marshall sprang a leak just off-shore as a sudden squall overtook the wooden boat and sank it. Three men drowned. In the 1980's, parts of the ship, including the propeller, were salvaged by lake-goers. The Coast Guard confiscated these parts and now the propeller rests here.

The Devil's Slide sledding dune is open all year around, even if the beach is closed to swimming. This is the only location where sledding is permitted. Facing the lake, the Devil's Slide is just off to the right. Past the slide are more amazing attractions: the 192-foot Mt. Tom, a bird observation tower, and dune trails.

This is the swimming beach at the Indiana Dunes State Park, looking due north. Life guards are present, and swimming is permitted, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The sand is dotted with many small, flat rocks that are perfect for skipping in the waves. The temperature on the cloudy, windy, wet day of April 3, 2014 topped out at 42 degrees.

The Dunes Creek is a small creek that empties into Lake Michigan. The mini-bridge (to the far right, out of view) is a great place to stand and watch gulls catch their lunch. On the far side of the Dunes Creek shore, which was developed in June 2012, are several large, floating chunks of ice. According to a Visitors Center volunteer, ice will remain for several more days.

The Dorothy Buell Visitor Center is located near the intersection of Indiana 49 and U.S. Highway 20, in Porter, Indiana. This center is a great place visit, as there are many resources about national, state, and county attractions of all types. There is a picnic area in the back, 100 parking spots with space for RV's and buses, mini movie theater, educational children's area, gift shop, and gracious amenities.

Dorothy R. Buell, 1886-1977, worked tirelessly with many others to save the Indiana dunes from over-development and to expand the tiny Indiana Dunes State Park into the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. She began her work in 1952 with her Save the Dunes Council. One of the free booklets offered here is the very comprehensive Indiana Dunes Country Activities Guide.

The Valpo Velvet ice cream shoppe in Valparaiso, Indiana, is less than twenty minutes from the Visitors Center via Indiana 49. It has been run for three generations by the Brown family. Valpo Velvet opens each year on April 1, and is located in downtown Valparaiso at 55-57 West Monroe.

Valpo Velvet is loaded with many decades of memorabilia. If visitors call ahead, they can get a tour of the back of the shoppe by Katie Brown, while her dad, Mike Brown, makes ice cream. All sorts of machines, new and quite old-fashioned, create the ice cream. The giant walk-through freezer where the newly-made ice cream hardens is amazing.

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