It's not often that one has the chance to see Indiana's 'living dune' as referred to by Atlas Obscura, let alone witness its movement in person. As with all great mysteries, however, it's not likely that one would have the chance to watch Indiana's famous 'Wandering Dune' move, lest they had a time-lapse camera monitoring its every movement.

The official name for this dune is Mount Baldy, and it can be found in Indiana Dunes National Park. While seeing this 126-foot tall dune in real life is a treat, it's the motion of its sands that have people truly invested in visiting.


Mount Baldy: What To Know About Indiana's Wandering Dune

While Mount Baldy holds it on as a tourist attraction, what it doesn't hold is its own weight - literally. The sheer number of tourists who came from all over to witness this dune in person is what led to its eventual, and unintentional, migration. As the park's tourism rate skyrocketed, so did the erosion done to Mount Baldy. Eventually, the marram grass that allowed it to maintain its structure and essentially hold it in place began to disintegrate, leading to its nickname of the 'Wandering Dune.'

Some might argue that had the dune been a living, breathing being, it may have had a sense of humor. As Mount Baldy began to shift, it did so in a dramatic twist of fate toward the parking lot. However, the drama did not end there as the dune was about to commit another atrocity that ended well enough, but could have had very different consequences.

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The Wandering Dune That Nearly Swallowed A Young Boy

At one point, Mount Baldy provided one of the most scenic views in Indiana Dunes National Park. Many people hiked, knee-deep in sand, to the top of its 'summit' in order to witness the sweeping vista of Lake Michigan that can be seen from above. However, as the dune's structural integrity was unknowingly thrown into question, this hike took a turn for the worst and soon became dangerous.

One July day, a family was visiting the park with their six-year-old son when he suddenly vanished from the side of the dune. What began as a typical sandy hike suddenly became a rescue mission as authorities and nearby park-goers attempted to find the boy underneath a pile of shifting sand. What threw everyone off was any sign there was a sinkhole in the middle of Mount Baldy; dunes, by nature, are dense and solid, with no holes. In the case of the sinkhole in Indiana Dunes National Park, however, the mystery would only be solved in one way: by digging.

The Miracle Of Mount Baldy

Often referred to by this name, the rescue of a six-year-old boy named Nathan who disappeared into the sands of Mount Baldy is mostly what the massive dune is known for. As rescuers dug 50-feet-deep, they began to find things such as tree bark and other odd sand formations, implying that there was an entire world of movements that had been occurring just beneath the surface. When the boy was finally rescued, it was determined that he had fallen down the tube of what once may have been a hollow tunnel used by the roots of a tree. Smithsonian Magazine reports that there were other similar holes found during that time, as well, which prompted further investigation. As it turns out, the geology on the top of Mount Baldy is just as fascinating as the inner workings of the dune, which are completely fluid and ever-changing.

Visiting The 'Wandering Dune' Mount Baldy Today

For good reason, Mount Baldy is currently closed to hikers. While there are still trails that lead up to its unpredictable summit, people are forbidden to climb up its loose-sand sides. According to Atlas Obscura, the beach itself on which the dune resides was opened once again back in 2017 but the dune, itself, remains off-limits.

Hikers are under no circumstances permitted to traverse past the boundary lines for Mount Baldy, which are marked clearly with signs. Those interested in getting a daytime ranger-led hike can check the park's calendar for more information.

The only way that hikers are permitted to see Mount Baldy up close now is through ranger-led tours. On their own, hikers are permitted no less than a mile up its sloping sides in order to protect the dune and encourage the growth of its vegetation. At one point, a person would have been able to see clearly all the way to the Chicago skyline from the top of Mount Baldy. However, that's not to say that Indiana Dunes National Park is not worth a visit on its own.