Parallel to the shore of Lake Michigan, this sand dune seems well established - supporting a wide variety of vegetation. Grasses, flowers, shrubs, deciduous trees, and even a small stand of conifers thrive on the dune. The foot of this dune touches the beach, without a prominent fore dune, allowing the crashing waves to reach it during storms. At least once in the past, a storm eroded a portion of the dune, collapsing a large area. You can see evidence of this collapse at the right of the center dune in the photo above.
Without natural sand replenishment, Lake Michigan is slowly eroding away these dunes. Man made structures such as the pier in Michigan City, prevent waves from carrying sand to this beach, so a prominent fore dune has not developed. Without a fore dune, this established dune is threatened by wind and waves.
Dunes a bit closer to Michigan City, near Kintzele Ditch, have all but lost their vegetation on the lake side of the dunes. These dunes are eroding at an alarming rate, as the waves wash away the sand, collapsing the dune, taking mature trees with.
The dunes are an ever changing feature along the shore of Lake Michigan. They've changed every day for the last 4000 years, and won't stop anytime soon.
Posted by Tom Gill at Friday, May 29, 2015
Restoration continues in the Great Marsh of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Efforts seem to have positive results - plenty of wildlife are calling this place home. On our last visit, we encountered numerous species of bird, water birds such as the egret in this image, several great blue herons, turtles, frogs, and lots of insects. All without looking too closely.
Posted by Tom Gill at Thursday, May 28, 2015
Once stretching over 12 miles, the largest interdunal wetland on Lake Michigan is getting a well deserved restoration. Following years of draining, farming, industry, and road building, the Great Marsh is returning to its former glory as a haven for water birds, insects, and native wetland plants.
Thanks to volunteers and the National Park Service, invasive species are being removed, native plants planted, and ditches filled in - all to return the marsh to a more natural state.
Drive or walk near the intersection of Broadway Road and Beverly Drive in Beverly Shores, Indiana, and observe a portion of the marsh for yourself. This is the Derby Ditch section of marsh, and it's come a long way in just a few short years. A relatively new parking area near the Beverly Shores Station of the South Shore electric line, allows visitors to park and walk along Beverly Drive, or walk the trails winding through the marsh. Expect to run into biting insects such as ticks and deer flies (they can dominate the experience in the summer), but long pants, repellent, and a wide-brimmed hat, can help keep the bothersome bugs at bay. Wide-brimmed hats not only keep the sun off of your head, they also keep the biting flies from landing on your face. I guess the brim messes with their navigation a bit.
The Great Marsh includes the Derby Ditch section near Beverly Shores and extends past Cowles Bog, to the wetlands near Burns Harbor.
Posted by Tom Gill at Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Unfortunately, due to an illness, I missed most of the flowering trees this year. I did manage to capture a few close to home, and using a variety of stacked filters, achieved this image. I usually strive for sharper images, however, I liked what the multiple filters did with the light and the edges of the flower petals.
Shooting into the sun created some lens flare across the image. This is also something I generally wish to avoid, but here, it seemed to add a bit of interest to the pear tree blossoms. It can be seen both on the left of the image, and at the right- I'm guessing one artifact for every element the light passed through.
Posted by Tom Gill at Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Shaped by the waves of Lake Michigan, the mouth of Kintzele Ditch changes constantly. The changes can be subtle, or extreme - sometimes 180 degrees in direction and hundreds of feet in distance.
The stream itself is a difficult waterway to explore. Walking along the bank is not possible because of the steep sand dunes on either side, and kayaking or canoeing is often impeded by fallen trees. Perhaps it's this difficulty that seems to attract us the most; always thinking we can explore a little further each time. But respect for the environment keeps us from trekking over the plants that boarder the stream, walking only where allowed and only where there are no plants to trample.
Every year I plan on following the stream as far as possible, and every year I'm stopped by some obsticle - natural or political. I'll say it again- this is the year I'll find the source of Kintzele Ditch.
Posted by Tom Gill at Tuesday, May 19, 2015
The effects of winter are quite evident on the dunes at Central Beach, part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakehsore. Waves washed away sand from the foot of the dunes, causing a collapse of the sand above, taking with it, large trees. These trees litter this area of the beach, some even reach from the dune to Lake Michigan.
The Michigan City pier located about a mile up the shore has created a starving beach situation on the beaches downwind of the pier. Wind and water carry away sand from the beach, but since the pier captures sand against it, the sand doesn't have a chance to replenish the beaches downwind.
Mt. Baldy is another example of a starving beach. The living dune there is moving about four feet a year inland, yet new sand is not replenishing the moving sand.
Emergency conditions are in play here - people are no longer allowed to walk on most of the dunes in the National Lakeshore. This is to prevent further erosion.
One look at the effects of winter on the dunes, and anyone can see the erosion is NOT due to foot traffic. As a matter of fact, any erosion due to foot traffic on these dunes has long washed away into Lake Michigan by mother nature.
Keeping visitors off of all of the dunes only encourages people to walk around the barricades, killing the Marram grass, creating wider and additional paths.
The National Lakeshore needs to assess what is really at fault, instead of closing area after area to foot traffic in the name of conservation. Mt. Baldy remains closed following the sinkhole that swallowed a visitor who wandered into a closed area of the dune. Efforts to determine why it happened and if it could happen again are moving at glacially slow speeds. Coincidence? I think not. It's a great excuse to keep visitors off of the newly planted Marram grass.
Posted by Tom Gill at Monday, May 18, 2015