Mount Baldy slowly deteriorating

In addition to being an extremely unique and symbolic attraction in Michigan City, Mount Baldy is the largest dune in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. However, although Mount Baldy is a beautiful sight to see, it unfortunately has become a dangerous and fragile attraction.

Mount Baldy first opened long before the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was established in 1966. It used to be owned by Michigan City, but was donated to the National Lake Shore that year.

Over the past few years Mount Baldy has been moving inland towards the parking lot. There have been reports that Mount Baldy has been moving from ten to fifteen feet per year. This is due to a severe lack of dune grass keeping the mountain in its place and too many people climbing it for so many years.

Mount Baldy has been closed for safety reasons since July 2013 after a young boy was swallowed by an eleven foot sink hole that opened suddenly and was buried for more than three hours.

Bruce Rowe said, “It was closed to prevent accelerated erosion that was occurring and causing the dune to move southward at a rapid pace. The park service is restoring the dune by planting native dune grass on portions of the dune to try and stabilize it to a more normal rate of movement.” 

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At this time, they cannot say if public will ever be able to climb up the side of the mountain closest to the parking lot. It will depend on how well the restoration of the dune works.

According to NBC Chicago National Parks Service geologists have been reviewing the report, which shows Mount Baldy at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore contains sixty six anomalous spots, where there’s something other than pure sand beneath the dune, lakeshore spokesman Bruce Rowe said. Some of these spots are probably tree stumps or holes, but at least six of the anomalies are mental objects, he said.

Rowe said, “Scientists are still investigating what caused the sink hole to open up. Right now geologists at the Geological Resources Division of the National Park Service are reviewing a study done by the EPA at Mount Baldy. At this point, we just do not know when the dune will reopen. We are keeping it closed while the investigation continues.

Scientists have never seen a hole open up on a sand dune before. It is truly a mystery.”

The biggest change that has happened since Mount Baldy opened is that most of the dune grass has been killed off by so many people walking on the dune over the years. Without the plants there to hold it in its place, the wind has moved the dune much more quickly than normal.

Rowe continued on to say, “Until this summer we had no idea that holes could open up on the dune. That is clearly the greatest danger now. Other dangers include people falling down steep dune slopes and some other people having heart attacks when trying to climb the dune.”

Despite all of the dangers at Mount Baldy, the dunes continue to be a very significant and unique feature of Michigan City. For years it has attracted residents and tourists alike , and hopefully one day in the near future it will be safe again for the public to enjoy.

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