The East Branch of the Little Calumet River is one of Northwest Indiana’s invaluable natural resources, providing habitat for aquatic wildlife and picturesque views for hikers on nearby trails. Save the Dunes, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, the National Park Service, Student Conservation Association, and the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association are working to restore habitat and improve access along the river corridor. A ribbon-cutting event is scheduled for Saturday, October 7 to celebrate a newly re-opened water trail with paddling beginning at Calumet Road in Chesterton and ending at Howe Road in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. While canoe/kayak launch hardscapes will not be installed until the end of 2017, the partners are hosting the event as part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore’s Outdoor Adventure Festival. For information and to register, visit the Festival’s Eventbrite page.
The East Branch of the Little Calumet River runs from Red Mill County Park in LaPorte to Portage, where it flows into Lake Michigan through Burns Waterway. This more than 20-mile stretch of river runs through Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore sites such as the Heron Rookery and the Bailly Homestead as well as a number of town and county parks and Shirley Heinze Land Trust nature preserves.
Paddlers, anglers, and other recreational enthusiasts have long-awaited improved access to the East Branch of the Little Calumet River. However, before many stretches of the river could be opened for recreational use, the National Park Service needed to conduct an Environmental Assessment to ensure that increased recreational use of the river would not threaten the health of the river or surrounding natural resources. Completed in July of this year, the Environmental Assessment found that increased passive recreational use of the East Branch of the Little Calumet River would cause no significant impact to the river.
Through funding from the Chi Cal Rivers Fund, Save the Dunes, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, the National Park Service, the Student Conservation Association, and the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association are working to restore habitat and improve access along the river corridor from Shirley Heinze Land Trust’s Dale B. Engquist Nature Preserve located in Pine Township adjacent to the Heron Rookery, westward to Lake Michigan. Through this project, the river has been opened from Brummitt Road in Chesterton to Mnoke Prairie in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, with plans to continue river opening activities in 2018 to State Road 149.
Save the Dunes, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, National Park Service, and Northwest Indiana Paddling Association would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Chi Cal Rivers Fund partners, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Donnelley Foundation, and ArcelorMittal for funding this exciting work.