More than 3.5 million people visit a sandy, hilly area called Indiana Dunes each year. It sits along the shores of Lake Michigan, about 80 kilometers southeast of Chicago, Illinois. Visitors to the area swim and sail on the lake. They watch birds in the wetlands. They study plant life in the forests of oak and maple trees.

Now, the 6,000-hectare site is the newest national park in the United States. It became Indiana Dunes National Park in February.

Strong winds from Lake Michigan -- one of America’s five so-called Great Lakes -- created the park’s sand dunes over time. Some dunes are still forming today. The winds create the dunes by dropping loose sand onto land. Some of the dunes here look partly round. Others take the form of long, narrow hills.

The smooth sands of the dunes and lakeshore make an almost musical sound when people walk on them. The sounds can sometimes be heard several meters away. Visitors like to say that the sand dunes “sing.”

It has been a long, hard fight to get Indiana Dunes designated as a national park. The park’s superintendent, Paul Labovitz, said the process was “103 years in the making.”

The idea was first proposed in 1916 -- the same year the National Park Service was established. But World War I and the need for steel mills on the lakefront to support the war effort delayed such plans for the park. Later efforts to get the national park designation were halted by industrialization of the nearby Port of Indiana, the largest commercial port on Lake Michigan.

The designation does not come with any new rules or big financial changes for Indiana Dunes. It does, however, give the area the same recognition as more well-known national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.

The U.S. National Park Service system includes more than 400 parks, monuments, historic sites and other protected areas. For many years, Indiana Dunes was a national lakeshore within the park system. ​

Park Superintendent Labovitz called the park one of the most ecologically mixed places in North America. Indiana Dunes has about 1,500 different kinds of plants, he said.

The Dunes are also along a major migration path, and birdwatching is a big reason visitors come to Indiana Dunes each year. The area is home to more than 300 species of birds, including waterbirds such as loons and herons, as well as birds of prey like bald eagles and hawks. Several species of songbirds also live there.

Weimer said people from about 50 countries visit the park each year. The park offers guidebooks in 12 languages. “This is not just a local attraction,” Weimer said of the park. “It’s an international attraction.”


Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.

designate (v.) /ˈdɛzɪgˌneɪt/ -  to officially choose (someone or something) to do or be something

  • The park has been designated as a wildlife refuge.

superintendent (n.)  /ˌsuːpɚɪnˈtɛndənt/ - a person who directs or manages a place, department, organization, etc.

  • Our district superintendent of schools is retiring soon.

commercial (adj.) /kəˈmɚʃəl/ -  related to or used in the buying and selling of goods and services

  • The city wanted to encourage commercial rather than residential development along the river.

ecologically (adv.) /ˌiːkəˈlɑːʤɪkli/ - in a way that concerns the relation of living organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.

  • Russia's vast forests are of global importance both economically and ecologically


Exercise 2


Answer these questions about the article.

1. Where are the Indiana Dunes located?

2. How are the dunes formed?

3. When was the idea for Indiana Dunes to become a national park first proposed?

4. How many different kinds of plants grow in the area?


Exercise 3

Make a sentence.

Make sentences using these words.

designate, superintendent, commercial, ecologically


Exercise 4


Have a discussion on following questions.

1. Would you like to visit Indiana Dunes?

2. Are there any similar places (dunes) in your country?

3. What are some of your country's national parks?

4. Do you like visiting natural landmarks?



This lesson is based on a news article originally published by VOA.