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Lake Michigan Shoreline Recreation Guidelines

Indiana has 45 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline that stretches across three counties (Lake, Porter, and LaPorte) and includes Indiana Dunes State Park and Indiana Dunes National Park as well as several municipal beaches. Lake Michigan’s waters and beaches offer scenic and recreational opportunities for the public.

The Public Trust Doctrine for Lake Michigan

Diagram showing public trust area of shoreline

The waters and land up to the ordinary high water mark of Lake Michigan are owned by the State of Indiana and are held in trust for the use and enjoyment of the public.

Swimming, fishing* and boating are allowed in addition to enjoying the scenic natural beauty of Lake Michigan. While recreating and enjoying the public trust, it is important that you comply with state and local ordinances and regulations. If you visit an area and are uncertain of what is permissible, following these guidelines will help you comply with the public trust boundaries:

  • Stay off seawalls and other structures.
  • Keep off the sand dunes and dune grass.
  • Be aware of permissible activities referenced above.
  • Be respectful of neighboring private property.
Diagram of restricted areas on Lake Michigan shorline, stay off seawalls, avoid grass and dunes.

If you have questions, you can contact the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Law Enforcement District 10 Office, 219-879-5710 or icodist10@dnr.IN.gov.

*A valid Indiana fishing license is required for fishing in Lake Michigan and its tributaries.

High Water Levels & Erosion

The combination of high water levels, winter storms and large waves has resulted in severe erosion of sand dunes and beaches, and in some cases, damage to public and private property. In some areas, little or no beach remains and beach closures may be in effect.

Public Park Beaches

In addition to the beach access provided by the Public Trust, Lake Michigan has several managed park beaches open to the public that are operated by local, state and federal departments. These beaches have additional amenities such as parking, restrooms and camping. Additional state and national park information can be found at:

Know Before You Go

To help ensure an enjoyable and memorable experience, remember to check weather and lake conditions, as well as parking information, before arriving. The National Park Service offers a beach parking information hotline at 219-395-1003. Please be aware of rip currents and large waves that can occur while swimming and boating.