Aerial view of the Great Marsh Wetlands

The Geological Story of Great Marsh Trail

During the last ice age, glaciers advanced and receded, leaving behind the massive dune ridges that run along the southernmost shore of Lake Michigan. Water from melting ice and enormous waves was separated from the lake by the mighty dunes, and formed the basis for the Great Marsh. Unlike swamps, which typically include a variety of trees, the wet soil that makes up the marsh support a variety of shrubs, bushes, and grass.

This remarkable wetlands habitat once spanned twelve miles. As the region was settled, farmers and developers drained much of the wetlands. Today, the National Park Service and other environmental organizations work hard to preserve this important habitat.

Birds You May See

Animals You May See

A Hawk Moth in the Great Marsh Wetlands

Amazing Animals of Great Marsh Trail

Beavers were once rare in Indiana, after being hunted for their pelts in the 19th century. These shy and busy animals were reintroduced in 1935 and are now thriving. Evidence of their work can be seen in the Great Marsh, both in their dams and in the chewing marks left on tree stumps. If you think you see a beaver, be sure to take note of its tail! Muskrats also call the area their home and, while they look similar to beavers, have long, thin tails. 

Snakes and turtle species also can be seen at Great Marsh Trail. You might see turtles as small as a painted turtle or as large as a snapping turtle!

Right off the main parking lot is a patch of flora that draws monarchs, praying mantises, and hawk moths. Hawk moths look like small hummingbirds when they fly. 

How to Help

We are all responsible for protecting our parks for future generations. The Indiana Dunes, as a whole, is one of he most biodiverse areas in the United States. Here are some tips to help you limit your impact on the natural habitats in the dunes area.

Get Involved

Be the Change — Volunteer! Get more involved with the Indiana Dunes! There are many no-hassle, drop-in volunteer opportunities available for everyone. Just show up!

Love & Protect the Dunes

Each of us who visit the Indiana Dunes can also help protect natural heritage, biodiversity, and local culture by taking a few simple steps.

Plan Your Visit

  • 500 S. Broadway Ave.
  • 219-395-1882

Just a short stroll to an accessible observation platform provides a great view of this recently restored wetland. Wading birds like herons and egrets and songbirds such as warblers and…

What to Expect

Guests can choose from two small parking lots at the Great Marsh Trail. The south lot features several gravel spaces for 8–10 vehicles and leads visitors to the main trailhead.  The north lot features a paved parking lot (with one handicap space and one regular space) which leads visitors to a wheelchair-accessible trail to the observation deck. The deck offers a spectacular view of the marsh and the birds that inhabit it.

Hikers can expect grassy trails with some sections of packed dirt along this 1.3 mile trail. Come prepared to wear appropriate footwear ideal for wet conditions as the trails can become muddy and slippery after a heavy rainfall.

Parking lot at Great Marsh Trailhead

Main Lot and trailhead (south):

  • Free to enter
  • Open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm
  • 1.3 miles
  • No drinking fountains
  • No restrooms
  • Not wheelchair accessible
  • No handicap parking

An aerial view of the Great Marsh Trail

Accessible Lot (north):

  • Free to enter
  • Open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm
  • .2 miles accessible path to boardwalk platform
  • No drinking fountains
  • No restrooms
  • Wheelchair accessible
  • One handicap parking space