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Tallest Sand Dune In Indiana Discovered

As an Indiana Master Naturalist, scientist, inventor, historian, and photographer local resident Ron Seman has hiked the Indiana Dunes for over fifty (50) years.  He leads FREE adventures everyday of the year in all weather with individuals, veterans, active military, first responders, those in recovery via  school groups, organizations, Artistic Recovery and corporations for team building and he is always on the lookout for standout nature. Recently he found a STAND UP in nature. It took over three years of hypothesizing, researching, and measuring and he will be revealing the tallest sand dune in Indiana’s history!

Back in 1890, there was a dune known as the Hoosier Slide in Michigan City towering 200 feet! Over 180,000 people a year visited it and it was the number one tourist attraction in Indiana. It was used for weddings, picnics, and sliding and sledding. Famous people visited it including Daniel Webster. On October 17, 1899 United States President William McKinley came there and was honored with a 21-gun salute in celebration of the end of the Spanish–American War. This dune was excavated and by 1920 it was gone. The iron-rich sand created an aqua-blue glass used most famously for the Ball blue jars. It was also used for Hemingway blue glass insulators for the electrical power industry. Pittsburgh Plate Glass also used it for some windows. A very small amount was shipped by rail to Mexico where it was used by artists.

In the Indiana Dunes State Park there is the Three Dune Challenge consisting of Mt. Tom (192 feet), Mt. Holden ( 184 feet), and Mt. Jackson (176 feet). This has brought visitors from all over the world to take the challenge and hike them one after another. Many run the challenge to improve their PB (personal best) time. I had heard a 70+ year old semi-professional runner had completed it in 20 minutes. My PB is 22:00 done on a cool day of 11/26/21.

The most famous single sand dune in the world is perhaps Mt. Baldy (126 feet). In 2013 a six year old boy fell into a decomposition chimney, also known as the devil’s stovepipe. It is caused when a tree is buried by sand causing it to decompose and leave a hole, perhaps the height of the whole tree. Fortunately Nathan was miraculously rescued after being buried for 3.5 hours! He does not suffer in health and fortunately doesn’t recall the event happening.

Ron once polled ten Indiana Dunes National Park rangers in October, 2019, and asked them their personal favorite area to hike in the Indiana Dunes and eight of them picked Cowles Bog, where Henry Chandler Cowles, in 1896, began studying the area and became a founder of dynamic ecology where he wrote about ecological succession. This brought botanists from around the world to see the great biodiversity of the Indiana Dunes.

In 2005, Ron’s family got a Golden Retriever, named Aslan, and Ron hiked with him 1-2 times a day in the Indiana Dunes. They often went down a trail in Cowles Bog which was steep loose sand which led to the beach, known as Boater’s Beach. They would then go 1/4 mile to the west and then head south up a returning trail up an enormous dune requiring a lot of effort. The trail didn’t go up and over the dune but to minimize effort went around the dune. 

This dune, known as Mt. Tuthill was reported to be 161 feet tall. Ron often thought it was much taller. In October of 2019 he did some preliminary GPS measurements and it appeared that the trail as it passed the peak of Mt. Tuthill was 161 feet. 

Ron volunteers for the Indiana Dunes National Park and one thing he does is review trail conditions and report on dangerous situations. One important part of that is to remove mylar balloons, which are very dangerous to wildlife.  On 9/20/22 he was passing Mt. Tuthill on the trail and he saw a couple of mylar balloons caught on downed tree branches up at the top.  He carefully went up the dune which is no longer topped just with sand but dirt decayed from plant matter and covered with growth including some trees. Since he was at the very top where the downed tree branches were, he took the opportunity to use GPS on both an Apple iPhone 13 Max Max Pro and a Samsung A12 and the elevation read 790 feet. He then subtracted Lake Michigan‘s lake level of 577 feet to get a height of Mt. Tuthill to be 213 feet! (790 – 577 = 213). 

Ron has included a screen snapshot from the iPhone showing an evolution of 790 feet.  With enthusiasm he then went to Mt. Tom in the Indiana Dunes State Park. Using that same technique he verified that it is indeed 192 feet.

So Mt. Tuthill at 213 feet is now King of the Dune Mountains!

One can join Ron on a hike of adventure by going to IndianaDunesHiking.com

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Sue Baxter

Susie Young Baxter, CEO, has published PanoramaNOW Magazine for 31 years. Her hobbies are Camping, Boating, Hiking, Nature, Gardening and Outdoor Activities. She is an Artist, Graphic Designer, an Avid Seamstress, Dabbles in Homemade Crafts and Landscaping. Since her Father was a Health Teacher, she also likes homeopathic Health Solutions. Since blogging started over 10 years ago, PanoramaNow has been added to Newsbreak – a national news affiliate.

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About The Author

Sue Baxter

Susie Young Baxter, CEO, has published PanoramaNOW Magazine for 31 years. Her hobbies are Camping, Boating, Hiking, Nature, Gardening and Outdoor Activities. She is an Artist, Graphic Designer, an Avid Seamstress, Dabbles in Homemade Crafts and Landscaping. Since her Father was a Health Teacher, she also likes homeopathic Health Solutions. Since blogging started over 10 years ago, PanoramaNow has been added to Newsbreak - a national news affiliate.