Marsh and Dunes

Small wetlands form between the dune ridges of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The complete progression from sandy beach to mature forest can be experienced as you walk inland from the Lake Michigan Shore.

One of the best places to experience this is West Beach just outside of Gary, Indiana. A one mile looped trail, including boardwalks and over 250 stairs, will take you from the beach to the forest and everything in between. You'll even run into plant species that "shouldn't" be this far south, or this far north. Some species have established a hold here after the last ice age, in a small micro environment, while the same species have disappeared everywhere else for hundreds of miles around.

American Toad

Walking along a forest trail, we found this American Toad just sitting there. We approached and he didn't flinch. After a few minutes of taking his picture, I managed to get about two inches away from him before he hopped a few feet away.

I guess he figured he's big enough, and if he doesn't move, nobody will see him.

Beaver Dam Across the Canal

Certain points along the Illinois and Michigan Canal are very shallow or dry. A couple points between Utica and LaSalle are totally dry and you can walk across. This year, a beaver decided to build a dam across the canal about a thousand feet from Split Rock, raising the water level a bit.

If you enlarge the image, you can see his handy work of sticks, logs and mud.


April in Cowles Bog is a great time to see plant life begin it's growing season. The wetland areas are loaded with fiddleheads - soon to be two foot tall ferns.

Wetland Floor

Here, the early morning sunshine filters through the canopy and illuminates the Skunk Cabbage and fiddleheads.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

East Side of Split Rock

To complete the I and M Canal, workers needed to cut through this stone outcropping. Not an easy thing to do with only hand tools and black powder. In later years, the railroad paralleled the canal, so a tunnel was carved through the rock about 100 feet from the canal itself. Much later, the modern railroad cut more of the outcropping to run new tracks between the tunnel and the canal.

Split Rock Reflection

On the opposite side of the towpath, Split Rock used to be a stop along the railroad. Another track ran on top of the outcropping, and a bridge spanned the canal. A pavilion was built on top of Split Rock as a place for recreation. The foundation and stairs to this structure can still be seen today if you climb up to the top.


It seems a week or two early, but many tulips are in full bloom right now - must be due to the warmer weather we experienced this spring.

On interesting thing I noticed about this flower once I viewed the image large were the little purple tips on each anther of each stamen. It mocks the color of the petals.

Purple Tulip


Used between 1837 and 1913, these kilns and other similar ruins are all that are left of the Black-Ball Cement Company 2 miles west of Utica, Illinois. Limestone was mined here on the site, and used to make concrete. The process included these kilns, which are still in recognizable shape for the most part.

After the cement company closed, these mines were used for making moonshine during prohibition, and then commercial mushroom farming in the 1950's.

The endangered Indiana Bat and other wildlife live in the abandoned limestone caves, which are now part of the Pecumsaugan Creek - Blackball Mines Nature Preserve.

Access is by permit only.

Walk Toward the Light

The low angle of the setting sun created some interesting rays in the clouds, as well as a bit of lens flare that illuminated the path up the dune and seemed to beacon some to walk toward the light.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.


A fallen tree rests on the edge of a dune along the shore of Lake Michigan. Years of erosion has uncovered many fallen trees - some may have been buried for hundreds of years.

Spring Sunset

An April sunset is framed by a fallen tree along the shore of Lake Michigan. Winter erosion caused several yards of a tall sand dune to collapse onto the beach below. Marram Grass, shrubs and trees fall along with it, then get washed into Lake Michigan. By next week, this tree will probably be miles away.

Taking in The Sunset

On an unseasonably warm April 1st, we visited the Indiana Dunes National lakeshore after dinner. On our return walk from Kintzele Ditch, the sun had set but the remaining light created a beautiful show in the clouds. Mike walked ahead of us and stopped for a rest on a large piece of driftwood. He sat and watched the clouds for a few minutes until we caught up with him.

We could have stayed there for hours longer....

Just After Sunset

After a long walk on an unseasonably warm April evening, we were treated to a colorful sunset over Lake Michigan.

The ice is finally gone from the lake and beach, now the water just needs a few weeks to warm up enough for a swim.

4 images stitched together.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.