Paddle Boarding The Nation’s Newest National Park

Introducing Indiana Dunes National Park

Located in northern Indiana on the south shore of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park is a must-visit for stand up paddle boarders looking for a full-body workout. The nation’s newest national park may be considered one of the smallest in size, but its massive roster of paddle boarding locations and biodiversity rivals even the most acclaimed of our country’s parks.

With eight towering dune-faced beaches covering 15,000 acres with over 10 miles of river trails, this SUP destination will become your favorite instantly.

Indiana dunes national park

The Inception of Indiana Dunes

The National Park Service (NPS) declared Indiana Dunes the 61st national park on February 19, 2019. This makes Indiana Dunes our newest national park. Before the NPS declared Indiana Dunes as a national park, it was one of the four Great Lakes national lakeshores. 

The National Park Service designated Indiana Dunes as a national park because it offered something special that the other national lakeshores did not have — a unique biodiversity. Some could argue that Indiana Dunes has a biodiversity on the same scale as renowned national parks, Yellowstone and Yosemite.

Since Indiana Dunes is situated between a deciduous forest and prairie, it formed a rare ecozone overlap that created the perfect home for plant life that can be found anywhere from the Southwest to the Arctic. Furthermore, this unique overlap created an environment suitable for over 200 species of birds.

Indiana dunes national park

Paddle Boarding Indiana Dunes: What You Need To Know

Indiana Dunes has so many amazing options for flatwater stand up paddleboarding. Compared to most national parks, Indiana Dunes has a remarkable number of permitted places to SUP. From the sand dune beaches to the scenic river trails, you will constantly be entertained on your paddle board. 

Keep in mind, there are three locations that are not permitted for paddling due to marked off swimming areas and sensitive natural resources. These three locations are West Beach, Long Lake, and Greenbelt Ponds. Despite these three non-permitted locations, this still leaves you with some of the best water trails for stand up paddle boarding in the park.

Indiana dunes national park

The Best Beaches To Paddle Board At Indiana Dunes National Park

Surprisingly enough, all the beaches at Indiana Dunes are the best for paddle boarding. How could this be true? Well, you can thank the Lake Michigan Water Trail for this. 

In short, the Lake Michigan Water Trail is the longest continual water trail loop in the world. The trails span 1,638 miles along the entire perimeter of Lake Michigan’s coastline through Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Lucky for you, this world record trail passes through all 15 miles of beaches in the park. From the trail, enjoy the best coastal landscapes of northern Indiana from towering sand dunes to memorable sunsets over the Chicago skyline.

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7 Beaches You Can SUP at Indiana Dunes National Park

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The Best River Trails To Paddle Board At Indiana Dunes National Park 

To fully experience the biodiversity of Indiana Dunes you need to take your SUP on the Little Calumet River Trail. The Little Calumet River Trail can be accessed at six different launch sites located inside the park grounds. This river trail will take you three miles through the park’s dune woodlands, prairies, pine plantations, and historic farms. 

Make sure to paddle Little Calumet River Trail during the spring and summer for wildflower blooms and wildlife viewing. Also, paddle in the fall for colorful foliage and bird migrations. If you have time, another great river trail to paddle board is Burns Waterway. 

Keep in mind, the east section of the Little Calumet River Trail is in its early stages of development. Since opening, the park has been working to make the eastern section open for paddling. If you plan on paddling the Little Calumet River Trail, launch from the west end to avoid unsafe launch points and shallow waters.

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Wrapping Up:

The nation’s newest national park, Indiana Dunes, is a paddle boarder’s paradise. With an exceptional roster of places to stand up paddle board, you will have no shortage of new places to explore. Take your touring SUP on the world-renown Lake Michigan Water Trail and explore the northern Indiana coastline, or hop on a river trail to immerse yourself in the park’s unique biodiversity.

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Posted in Paddle Board Lifestyle
Douglas Robichaud - Doug is a content writer at ISLE Surf & SUP who has been surfing and paddle boarding for over 10 years. With a degree in English/Journalism, Doug has been an outdoor adventure content writer for over four years. Since joining the ISLE team, he has become a paddle board expert in all topics ranging from products, basic tutorials, tips and tricks, SUP safety, and new trends.