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Dreams of Duneland: A Pictorial History of the Indiana Dunes Region

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The towering sand dunes along Lake Michigan not far from Chicago are one of the most unexpected natural features of Indiana. Dreams of Duneland is a beautifully illustrated introduction to the Dunes region, its history, and future prospects. This area of shifting sands is also a place of savanna, wetland, prairie, and forest that is home to a wide diversity of plant and animal species. The preserved area of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore sits by residential communities, businesses, and cultural attractions, evidence of a long history of competition for the land among farmers, fur traders, industrialists, conservationists, and urban and recreational planners. With more than 400 stunning images, the book brings to life the remarkable story of this extraordinary place.

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Maple Sugar Time


Maple Sugar Time activities consist of an early spring walk through five demonstration stations in the Chellberg Farm area that demonstrate the enthusiasm for and making of maple syrup and maple sugar in Duneland over the centuries.

STOP 1 · The American Indian Sugar Camp. Indians poured sap into hollowed-out wooden bowls and then cooked it by placing hot rocks into the sap. If it is cooked long enough, it turns into sugar, always appreciated during and after a long, hard winter.

Sap drips from a spout into a collection bucket.


In the 1830s, Sagganee, a Potawatomi chief (perhaps the same person as Shabbona), went with the rest of his tribe to Kansas, but later returned, saying that he could not live in Kansas because there were no “sugar trees.” He so enjoyed making maple sugar from the sap of sugar maples that he spent the rest of his life in Indiana, where sugar maples were plentiful.


Spring in Duneland


The first green sprouts.

Tom Dogan

May apples emerge from beneath leaf clutter. Ron Trigg

Spring greenery. (below) Ron Trigg

Chellberg Farm yard in early spring. Jim Rettker

Charlotte and Herb Read on an April walk through the Cowles Bog area. (above) Jon L. Hendricks for The Times of Northwest Indiana

The two-story Bailly log cabin. (facing) Michael Kobe

In the longer days of March and April, with most weeks a bit warmer than the ones before, Duneland awakes from its winter sleep, and bits of green can be found along the forest floor.

At first unrecognizable, the plants soon develop leaves that aid in their identification, and the color of the woods and wetlands begins to change from brown to green.

Soon the grass is green, but the trees are still bare …

… then the treetops begin to show a hint of green

Chellberg Spring. Pete Doherty, Doherty Images




Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, the newest public beach in Duneland. Pete Doherty, Doherty Images

Dunes in Bloom. (above) Pete Doherty, Doherty Images

Goat’s rue.

Western sunflower.

Compass Plant. (left)

Sullivant’s milkweed. (above)

All photos by Ron Trigg

New England aster.

Savanna blazing star.

Fringed gentian.

Stiff goldenrod.


The Beach


Marram grass at Porter Beach. Ron Trigg

Alex Rettker empties sand from his shoes. At the dunes, this is often the last activity of the day. (below) Photo by his grandfather Jim Rettker

Digging for digging’s sake. (left) Dunes Learning Center

Glassy Shores. (above) Pete Doherty, Doherty Images

People have been going to the beach to relax, to swim, and to get away from the daily grind for more than a hundred years. On hot summer days, the beach is cooler and breezier than the city. The water is refreshing. Before people owned their own bathing suits, they could rent them at the beach.

Miller Beach, 1917. The bathing suits and the houses on shore could be rented from the Carr family. (right) Calumet Regional Archives

Having fun on shore and surf

The ever-popular beach at Dunes State Park. (above)

Playing in the surf. (left) Dunes Learning Center


Duneland Landscapes


Boardwalk. Kermit Clyne

The dunes are to the Midwest what the Grand Canyon is to

Arizona and Yosemite is to California. They constitute a signature

of time and eternity: Once lost the loss would be irrevocable.


Along and near the shore of Lake Michigan are many dunes and dune-types. There are fore dunes, moving dunes, stable dunes, high dune ridges, and low dune and swale landscapes. The tallest dune is Mount Tom in the state park. The fastest moving dune is Mount Baldy in the National Lakeshore. The smallest dune? That might have formed yesterday near the beach—and tomorrow it may be gone with the wind.

High Dune Crest, West Beach. © David A. Larson, Ogden Dunes, Indiana

Central Beach dunes. NPS, Jeff Manuszak

Mount Baldy, November 26, 2008 (above) and again on November 29, 2010. (right)


Duneland Fauna and Fungi


Red squirrel.


Raccoon. M. A. Griswold, M.S.

Gray squirrel.

White-tailed deer. (above and below)


Four-footed friends in the forest

Springtime path. (facing) Daniel Schwen

All photos by Ron Trigg except as noted

There are at least 46 species of mammals found in Duneland, most of which are seldom seen by the casual visitor. However, if one is quiet and observant, several of the ones pictured here might make themselves known.

According to Dr. Ken Brock, author of Birds of the Indiana Dunes, more than 350 species of birds have been seen in the dunes area. This large number is because of the north-south orientation of Lake Michigan, which provides a flight route for migrating species. Nineteen of those species are pictured on these pages.

Hawk. (left) Tom Dogan

Canada Geese. Tom Dogan


Summer Activities


Raising a May Pole starts the festivities (in spite of its being June).

There is much to do all across Duneland, from Miller Beach to Michigan City. Organized programs begin with the Midsummer programs near the summer solstice and continue to the end of summer in September. Every month has something special. Activities range from quiet canoe or kayak trips down scenic rivers to exciting air and boat shows.

Of course, the beaches and trails are available every day, and the campgrounds are available for those who want to spend the night in the middle of it all.

Midsummer is a Scandinavian holiday. The short summer is especially appreciated, and so its first day (the longest day of the year) is a happy one.

The Chellbergs and their neighbors celebrated their Swedish heritage every year. Friends and descendants of Swedes, the largest ethnic group in the Chesterton-Miller area in the early days, keep the old traditions going.

Lingonberry Jam entertains with lively traditional music. (above)


More Duneland Destinations


In addition to its natural wonders, the Duneland area has plenty of additional places to visit. From its west to its east end, there are places of sculpted and manicured beauty, an English-styled mansion, and futuristic houses as well as llamas, and tigers, and bears.

The Washington Park Zoo entrance plaza.

The grizzly bear exchanges glances with the guests. (top)

A peacock shows off his finery. (middle)

The WPA Rotary Castle, home of the amphibians and reptiles. (bottom)

Director Johnny Martinez in the Australian Aviary.

The Zoo has been a part of Washington Park since 1925—but it has never looked better than it does now. During the Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built Monkey Island, the Castle, the Observation Tower, and many of the Zoo’s winding walkways and stairways. The zoo kept WPA workers so busy that today it has the largest collection of WPA-built leisure structures in Indiana. In 1994, its old observation tower was found to be unsafe and was closed until it was restored and reopened in 2006. (see page 189)


Educational Activities


There is much to learn at the Dunes, and there are many educational opportunities for children, adults, community groups, and families.

Indiana Dunes State Park has the oldest program in the area. It includes self-guided hikes, naturalists who coordinate organized activities for park visitors, and a well designed nature center.

The National Lakeshore has had educational programs since 1968. Its programs focus on both the environmental and cultural resources of the park. The Dunes Learning Center has had its residential programs since 1998. Private groups such as Save the Dunes, the Izaak Walton League, the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, private and public schools, and Scouting, church, and community groups have all organized their own educational programs.

The pages that follow illustrate just a few of the many opportunities for learning in and about the Dunes.

Paul Quinlan, stewardship director for the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, leads an educational hike. Ron Trigg


Duneland’s Industrial Belt


A ship loaded with windmill blades arrives at the port. (above) Ports of Indiana

Today, the Port of Indiana—Burns Harbor is one of the most modern of all the Great Lakes ports and is home to about thirty companies. The port handles more ocean-going cargo than any other US port on the Great Lakes. Flanked by United States Steel to the west and ArcelorMittal Steel to the east, it handles 15 percent of all US steel trade with Europe. The port has ten steel processing mills on site. In addition to shipping its steel-related cargo, the port supports local farmers by shipping out grains and soybeans while shipping in both liquid and dry fertilizers. The port also handles paper, lumber, salt, limestone, and vehicles. Port officials are quick to remind the public that water-borne transportation is environmentally sound and keeps costs down.

Midwest Plant

United States Steel Corporation’s Midwest Plant. United States Steel Corporation

United States Steel Corporation’s Midwest Plant was built beginning in 1959 by the Midwest Steel Company, a subsidiary of National Steel. In 2003, when National Steel declared bankruptcy, the company’s assets were purchased by United States Steel.


Fine Arts in the Dunes


The Hyndman Gallery at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts. Rich Manalis

Five “nymphs” in the 1915 Prairie Club production The Awakening. Note the drummer in the background on the left. Arthur Anderson, Calumet Regional Archives

The visual and performing arts have a long history in Duneland. Earl Reed’s sketches, Arthur Anderson’s photographs, and Frank Dudley’s paintings were widely seen and helped spread the word about the dunes and their beauty. “Artie” Anderson’s photographs appear throughout this volume. Indeed, this entire book can be thought of as a tribute to the hundreds of photographers and artists who have captured the beauty of Duneland over the years. They’ve made it possible to enjoy the Dunes, even when one is away from them.

Michigan City’s Silver Cornet Band got its start in 1869. Dance bands entertained both young and old at Carr’s Beach and at Washington Park more than a hundred years ago. The Prairie Club had a history of pageants in the dunes before its huge 1917 pageant, The Dunes Under Four Flags.


Stormy Weather


Gathering storm clouds at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk. Fredric Young

When the storm gods lash the lake with whistling winds,

and send their sullen dark array through the skies,

and the music of the tempest blends

with song of surges on the shore,

the color tones seem to become vocal

and mingle their cadences with the voices of the gale.

—EARL H. REED, The Dune Country, 1916

And, of course, there were two brave photographers this stormy day. NPS, Edwin Alcox

Central Beach Storm. NPS, Edwin Alcox

Storm clouds arrive at the marina at Michigan City. Tom Dogan


Autumn Leaves and Shortening Days


Along the Calumet Trail. (middle) Ron Trigg

The warm days, cool nights, and spectacular colors make Duneland a delight in autumn. Crowds thin at the beach, and school groups begin their annual treks to one of the most beautiful places in the Midwest.

When I was in my teens I used to love hiking.

Always a bunch of girlfriends and I would set

out for a whole day of hiking in the woods.

who lived not far from Green Heron Pond

The Chellberg Farmhouse. (top) Jim Rettker

Life is not measured by the

number of breaths we take,

But by the moments that

take our breath away.


Green Heron Pond, Miller. (bottom) Ron Trigg

A time to give thanks and to prepare for spring

The White Bridge, the focal point of the Celebration Gardens of the International Friendship Gardens, has striking beauty in all seasons, but perhaps particularly in the fall. International Friendship Gardens




A winter wonderland awaits the infrequent visitor

Dunes Creek.

Photos by Michael Kobe

Two whitetail deer.

Snowy spruces. (above) Michael Kobe

Winter storms at Ogden Dunes. (right) Tom Dogan

A snowstorm at Ogden Dunes. (above) Tony Gaul

The Burstrom Chapel (or Svenska Skola) in winter. (left) Michael Kobe

Michigan City Lighthouse. (left) Tom Dogan

Leaving home can be an adventure (Beverly Shores). (above) Tom Dogan

Mallards. Michael Kobe

Almost a lunar landscape at the Dunes State Park beach. Carol Wood

Winter Solace. Pete Doherty, Doherty Images

On the old Julian calendar, Saint Lucia Day, December 13th, was the winter solstice—the shortest and darkest day of the year. Winters are long and dark in Scandinavia, and so it is not surprising that a winter celebration of light would become popular there—and among Scandinavians who came to America. This certainly included the Chellbergs and the other Swedish immigrant pioneers who came to Duneland in the middle of the nineteenth century.


Indian Life in the Dunes Before 1833


The Potawatomi culture, like most American Indian cultures, was complex, with traditions that created a sense of closeness to nature. The Potawatomi were both hunters and farmers. However, before contact with Europeans, they had no steel axes or plows, so they could not clear forests or cut through thick prairie sod. Instead, they often planted their seeds in the soft soils beside streams and rivers.

Although the Potawatomi set up camp along the Lake Michigan shoreline in summer, there were no permanent Indian villages along the beach or in the dunes. The beach offered no protection, and few foods could be grown on the sand dunes. Thus, many Potawatomi villages were located alongside the rivers and lakes of the Calumet and Kankakee areas, where fresh food and water were available. The Potawatomi spent the winters near the Kanka- kee River, away from the snow belt and the harsh weather conditions near Lake Michigan.

Shabbona. Gary Public Library

Indians traded with Jean Baptiste Point de Sable, who had a trading post on Trail Creek in the 1770s, and also with Joseph Bailly in the 1820s. Shabbona, said to be Marie Bailly’s cousin, was a Potawatomi chief best known as the “Peace Chief.” He was a frequent visitor at the Bailly Homestead.


1675 French Connections


It is probably impossible to know who were the first Europeans to visit Duneland. In 1667, Father Claude Allouez referred to the “yet unexplored” Lake Michigan. However, it can be assumed that the first were French Canadian coureurs des bois (runners of the woods), fur trappers who worked without a license from the French government. Because their work was illegal, these hardy folks did not make written records. However, it is very likely that the Calumet Area, with its wealth of wildlife, would have been known to them. Two coureurs des bois met Father Jacques Marquette in December 1674 when he encamped at Chicago. After 1681, the government began licensing a limited number of these men. These legal travelers were called “voyageurs.”

Father Jacques Marquette is by far the best known of the French missionaries who explored the south Lake Michigan area, and his exploration in 1673 is the earliest of which there are any written records. That summer, Marquette and Louis Jolliet explored the Mississippi valley from Wisconsin to as far south as Arkansas. On their return trip, they came up the Illinois River, crossed the Chicago portage, and canoed down to the mouth of the Chicago River. Marquette was evidently pleased with his reception by the Illinois Indians, and he promised that he would return.


1775 Jean Baptiste Point de Sable


The first known non-Indian resident in the Calumet Area (and later the first settler of what would become Chicago) was the black fur trader Jean Baptiste Point de Sable, a French- and Algonquin-speaking British subject. For a short time between 1775 and 1779, Point de Sable and his Potawatomi wife Catherine ran a trading post on the Rivière du Chemin (Trail Creek) at the present-day site of Michigan City. During the Revolutionary War, Point de Sable (who was not known as “Du Sable” until after his death) was accused of being an American sympathizer and in 1779 was arrested by British forces. He was taken to Michilimackinac, where, cleared of all charges, he served as a member of the British Indian Department. No physical trace of his trading post has been found along Trail Creek.


1780 The Battle of the Dunes


The Duneland area was the site of a Revolutionary War skirmish on December 5, 1780. Apparently inspired by George Rogers Clark’s victory over the British at Vincennes, a group of sixteen men from the Cahokia area in Illinois, commanded by Jean Baptiste Hammelin (a French Canadian who fought for the United States), raided the British Fort St. Joseph (at present-day Niles, Michigan). Arriving when the British commander and most of the Potawatomi residents were out on a winter hunt, they loaded their packhorses with furs taken from the fort and began the slow trek back west along the lakeshore. When the British commander arrived back at the fort, he gathered a group of loyal Potawatomi Indians, and they gave pursuit.

They caught up with the American raiders either at Trail Creek or Le Petit Fort1 and ordered them to surrender. When the Americans refused, the skirmish began. In the words of the only written description of the battle, “Without a loss of a man on [the British] side, [they] killed four, wounded two, and took seven Prisoners, the other three escaped in the thick Wood.” The prisoners were treated as thieves, rather than prisoners of war, since none of them were found to have an army commission. Thomas Brady, formerly a superintendent of Indian Affairs, was one of those taken prisoner. It is believed by many that Mt. Tom, the highest dune in the region, is named for him.


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