Liberated creek improves park

reduces water pollution

Uncovering a creek at Indiana Dunes State Park and restoring the stream’s natural flow created new fish habitat and reduced the volume of polluted runoff entering Lake Michigan.


Dunes Creek is a small creek that flows through Indiana Dunes State Park and discharges into nearby Lake Michigan. The creek was forced into a large pipe in the 1930s so a new parking lot could be built where the stream once flowed. The creek remained harnessed for 80 years. In 2005, officials at the state park decided to daylight an 825-foot-section the creek. Three years later, after heavy rains and flooding collapsed part of the parking lot above the creek, officials decided to daylight another 700-foot section of Dunes Creek. The project restored the creek’s natural flow, improved flood protection, created fish and wildlife habitat, improved water quality and reduced the volume of polluted runoff flowing into Lake Michigan. The project, which included construction of a boardwalk, improved the overall aesthetics of the park and increased pedestrian access to the creek. Daylighting the creek meant fewer parking spaces, but that reduced overcrowding at the park, which has actually increased revenue. In 2005, the park brought in 68 cents for every dollar invested. By 2009, that had soared to $1.20. The project, which was dedicated in 2012, has won numerous state and national awards.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
  • Polluted runoff
  • Bacterial pollution at nearby beach


Indiana Dunes Daylighting restoration project. 2010. Credit: NOAA.

Dunes Creek was contained in a pipe for 80 years until it was unleashed in 2008. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Results and Accomplishments

Restored the natural channel in a portion of Dunes Creek, which created new fish habitat, reduced polluted runoff and bacterial pollution on a nearby Lake Michigan beach.