Northeast to the Dunes

Facing a three-day weekend with no plans and encouraged by a decent weather forecast, my wife and I opted for a trip to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the boyhood home of Edwin Way Teale, one of America's most famous naturalists (see Four Books).  Leaving Columbia (Missouri) just before dawn, we drove northeastward across the Glaciated Plain of Missouri and Illinois, crossing the Mississippi, Illinois, Kankakee and Des Plaines Rivers en route to Indiana's portion of Lake Michigan's coast.

Created by glacial erosion during the Pleistocene and molded by wind and waves since the ice sheets retreated, the dune fields along the southern shore of Lake Michigan have gradually moved northward as the Great Lakes diminished in size (when drainage opened through the St. Lawrence Seaway).  The shore's mosaic of beaches, wooded dunes, wetlands and oak savannas was threatened by industrial development in the early 20th Century, prompting the establishment of Indiana Dunes State Park in 1926; since 1966, that Park has been flanked by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, now encompassing 15,000 acres.

During our visit, we plan to explore the component habitats of the Lakeshore and will no doubt encounter a fascinating diversity of plant and animal life.  Tomorrow's post will summarize those discoveries.