Naturalist Jessica Rosier shows a totem pole to River Hoyns, 7, of Valparaiso, during a program on items found at the the Indiana Dunes State Park Jan. 27, 2013 in Chesterton, Ind. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
For more information on programs at the Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Center, 1600 N. County Road 25E, Chesterton, call 926-1390,
or go to www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2980.htm.
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:25AM
Today’s trash may be tomorrow’s treasure.
From old beer bottles to broken bits of China, visitors to the Nature Center at the Indiana Dunes State Park learned about some of the artifacts culled along the Lake Michigan shoreline and in the park, and what some of those finds say about the park’s history.
The park works to keep its trails clean, said naturalist Jessica Rosier, but sometimes, pieces of trash end up covered in sand and revealed much, much later.
“Then it’s not trash. It’s an artifact. An artifact is a manmade object that also can teach us a lot about history,” Rosier said during the Jan. 27 presentation.
The findings included flint shavings found atop Mount Tom, the tallest dune in the state, which came from Native Americans making arrowheads. Rosier said the shavings were probably the work of the Pottawatomie, the last tribe to live in the area.
Some of the artifacts have been repurposed. The program area outside the Nature Center is encircled with posts, part of a pier from a long-forgotten city.
“It was part of a ghost town that was right here inside Indiana Dunes State Park,” Rosier said, adding City West, founded in the 1830s, was located in what is now a picnic area in the park.
Heavy storms, receding flooding and shifting sand in September 2008 revealed the posts. The town had a sawmill, saloons and homes with plans for a harbor — hence the pier — but a recession dried up federal funds for the project, and the buildings eventually burned down.
Other items include a blue Ball jar made in the early 1900s with sand from the “Hoosier Slide,” a 250-foot dune that was located just east of the park and was a tourist attraction until its was mined away to make glass.
Some stuff also just washes up on shore, including bowling balls; a complete toilet; a pallet of empty sandbags; the car door for a 1930 Chevy; and, at the nearby Indiana Dunes National Park, a statue from a Big Boy restaurant.
Rosier also displayed a totem pole found on the beach.
“I do not know the story on this,” she said, adding it may have come from a vacation beach home, and appeared to be hand-carved.
Deborah Hoyns of Valparaiso brought her daughter Raven, 6, and son River, 7, to the program. She saw the totem pole online, and said the family does a lot of hiking in the park.
“I was curious to see what would wash up in the lake,” she said.