A Long and Storied History

Valparaiso Chain Of Lakes

Human History

Various tribes of Native Americans inhabited the watershed with the Miami and Pottawatomi the most recent and best documented.

In the early 1800’s over 3,000  Potawatomi used campsites for hunting and fishing in the lakes. In 1832 the Removal Act let to the forced removal of the Pottawatomie to Kansas in a trip now referred to as the Trail of Death.

The first white to settle in Northwest Indiana was the fur trader Joseph Bailly, who built a homestead and trading post on the Little Calumet River in present-day Porter (nine miles north of Hillcrest Park). Bailly lived there from 1822 until his death in 1835. By the time he died, the fur trade was collapsing due to a change in fashion—Easterners had lost their taste for beaver hats. The lakes eventually became a popular destination for city folks from Chicago and a target for developers who sub-divided the property into small lots and sold them for hotels and summer cottages throughout the region.

By the middle of the 20th century, population growth from the city of Valparaiso and counties to the west caused most of the lakefront and uplands to be “developed” which entailed removing most of the natural vegetation, installing asphalt and other impervious surfaces, and creating myriad threats to water quality, fish and the abundance of wildlife.

 

 

Inter-Urban History

For decades, pleasure seekers traveled to our region on horses and in buggies over primitive roads. The interurban train, though its era was short lived, functioned as a transition from horse-drawn transportation to motor-powered vehicles. 

A steam-powered interurban railroad was built in the early 1900’s  which accommodated tourists and vacationers who preferred taking the train over the choice of horse and buggy rides over dirt or dirt and plank roads.  The invention and popularity of the automobile caused the demise of the Inter-Urban and the depression caused much of the homes and resorts to decline.  Decades later, the expansion of steel mills encouraged re-population of the cottages which were converted to year-around homes.

Interurban Presentation compliments of Ed Seykowski [PDF]

Gary Railways Valparaiso Division Interurban video by Dave Lasayko

Geoligical History

The Valparaiso Chain of Lakes Watershed includes eleven lakes on four square miles (2623 acres) of land near the center of Porter County, Indiana. The lakes were formed over ten thousand years ago as glaciers retreated from the region leaving huge holes and depressions now referred to “kettle lakes,”  especially prominent where the glaciers ended their progression near the Valparaiso Moraine. Unlike most of the surrounding region, the watershed drains south toward the Kankakee river though Loomis Lake drains naturally north toward Lake Michigan and south toward the Kankakee.

The Valparaiso Lakes and their watershed formed during the most recent glacial retreat of the Pleistocene era. The advance and retreat of the Lake Michigan Lobe of a later Wisconsinan age glacier and the deposits left by the lobe shaped much of the landscape found in northeast Indiana (Homoya et al., 1985). The receding glacier left an arc-shaped band of till paralleling the Lake Michigan shoreline. This band of till, known as the Valparaiso Moraine, stretches from southwest Michigan to northeast Illinois. The Valparaiso Lakes lie within the central portion of the Valparaiso Moraine.

The Valparaiso Moraine serves as a topographical divide in northwest Indiana separating the Lake Michigan basin from the Kankakee River basin. Because the Valparaiso Lakes lie on the topographical divide, some of the lakes (Loomis and Spectacle Lakes) naturally drained to Lake Michigan while the other lakes in the area drained to the Kankakee River.

Our History

Creation of the Chain of Lakes Watershed Group

In the early 1990’s the construction of the new Flint Lake Elementary School generated a massive amount of silt-laden storm water into Flint Lake which aroused considerable protest from several homeowners’ associations and a lake protection group.  Those groups ultimately merged into the Valparaiso Chain of Lakes Watershed Group.

In 1997 Dr. Robin Scribailo, a biology professor at Purdue University inspired the group to focus attention on the Chain of Lakes which, he declared, was the most bio-diverse watershed in the state.  His concurrent aquatic vegetation inventories identified over 100 species of aquatic plants within the four square mile area, a record for the state.

The group incorporated in 2006 and began on a long, treacherous, campaign to protect and preserve the lakes and surrounding environs in hopes of retaining that bio-diversity while providing human recreation uses of the lakes including swimming, boating, fishing, and birding.

The group embarked on a series of hundreds of educational events including research studies, nature hikes, fish inventories, lectures, high school debates, videos, management or removal of invasive plants and animals, planting native vegetation, and introducing natural predators as an alternative to the use of pesticides. Many of the projects involved partnering with governmental agencies, local schools, and three nearby universities.

Though our 501 C 3 status prohibits campaigning for political candidates, the group remains diligent in monitoring and supporting legislation which could effect our watershed and the surface and groundwater on which it depends.

Saving Silver Lake

Dorothy Graden believes the wetland you save should be your own.

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- Walt Breitinger