Permits & Reservations

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Fee and Reservation Information

A valid entrance pass or reciept is required for all visitors, including permit holders. For more information on fees and passes, including locations to purchase, go to the fees and passes page.

Most common reservation inquiries:

  • All 67 sites at the Dunewood Campground are reservable in advance at www.recreation.gov starting six months in before the check-in date. Sites are reservable beginning on November 15 for the following camping season. For more information call (219) 395-8138.
  • The Dunbar Group Site is reservable in advance at www.recreation.gov starting six months before the check-in date. The site can hold up to 30 people and 10 tents. For more information call (219) 395-8138.
  • Picinic Shelters have both reservable and first come, first served based locations. For more information call (219) 395-8138.
 
NW Indiana Symphony Concert in the Dunes.
A crowd gathers in the parking lot at West Beach for the Northwest Indiana Symphony Concert in the Dunes.

NPS Photo Collection.

Permits

Special Park Use Permits (SUP) are for activities that take place within a national park outside typical and ordinary visitor use. These events may include gatherings and activities such as weddings, sporting events, and sales. Special Park Use activities inside the park require written authorization from the National Park Service in the form of a Special Use Permit, or a Commercial Use Authorization before the event or activity takes place.

 

Special Use Permits

Special Use Permit activities can include but are not limited to:
Whether you are planning a small intimate wedding or the extravagant wedding of your dreams, Indiana Dunes National Park offers many unique locations with one of a kind scenery.

Our park sites provide both an indoor and outdoor setting for magical moments while enjoying the beautiful vistas Lake Michian has to offer.

Persons interested in hosting a wedding ceremony will find answers to the most common questions on this link: Indiana Dunes National Park Wedding FAQ Link
A nighttime shot of Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk.
Portage Lakefront Classroom at the Portage Lakefront Pavilion
Permits may be requested for gatherings up to 58. There are 42 chairs and 10 tables in the room. There are no kitchen facilities. The permit is solely for the classroom. In addition to the application fee, there is a cleaning fee and maybe a liability insurance requirement.

Special events include but are not limited to aid stations, corporate events, family gatherings, festivals, parties, large picnics, public spectator attractions, trail runs, basecamps or vehicle parking, car shows and other non-visitor activities on park land.

Additional Information

  • A group size of 25 or more people and/or 10 vehicles requires a permit.

  • Events with fewer than 25 people may require a permit.

  • Any type of gathering with catering, or significant equipment will require a permit, regardless of size.
  • You will require a permit If you want to enter a closed building.
  • All picnic tables in the park are first come, first served and cannot be reserved.

  • Same day set up and clean-up are required.

  • If the requested dates and activity can be accommodated, the cost recovery will be based on the total number of people and complexity and time needed for the event, set-up and clean up.

  • Sites are available from 8:00 a.m. until sunset.

  • A ranger will be assigned to monitor the event. Depending on the size/complexity of the event additional monitors may be required.

  • Rangers services are from $60.00/hr to $100.00/hr for one monitor plus administrative and maintenance recovery costs.

  • The applicant is responsible for cleaning the event areas and parking lot at the event’s conclusion.

  • Directional signs must be free standing and not interfere with traffic or safety signs.

Additional documents may be required for complex events:

  • Traffic Control

  • Emergency Medical Plan (EMS)

  • Event Schedule

  • List of vendors

  • List of equipment and supplies

  • List of event personnel (i.e. name, position, title, phone number)

  • Event Plan
  • Map of event setup (race course route, event layout, etc.)
The scattering of ashes requires a permit, there are no fees but the Office of Special Park Uses will set conditions according to 36 CFR §2.62(b) such as:
  • Ashes from Cremated Human Cremains must be scattered in a manner so as to disperse their identity.
  • Ashes must be pulverized before being scattered.
  • The placement of any monument or marker recognizing the scattering of cremated human remains is prohibited.
  •  must be away from developed areas (facilities, buildings, parking lots, trailheads, campgrounds, picnic areas);
    • cannot be on any trail or road;
    • must be at least 25 feet from any trail or road; and
    • must be at least 100 yards from any body of water including the Little Calumet River and Lake Michigan.
  • You must provide the park's Permit Coordinator with the exact area where the cremated remains will be scattered (GPS Coordinates are preferred), as well as the date and time the activity will take place.
  • Group size will be limited to no more than 25 people.
  • You cannot go off trail/road to scatter cremated remains in park areas where Marram grass is planted.
  • You cannot move or remove any park resources, including soil, rocks, branches, or plants, to scatter the cremated remains.
  • Birds, butterflies, balloons, or other objects, either natural or artificial, may not be released in conjunction with the scattering of cremated remains within the park.
  • 36 CFR §2.62(a) Authorization from the Director of the National Park Service is required to install a monument, memorial, tablet, structure, or other commemorative installation in a park area.
First Amendment activities such as public assemblies, meetings, gatherings, demonstrations, parades and other public expressions of views and opinions are managed and regulated under 36 CFR § 2.51, DO/RM-53 and the Indiana Dunes National Park Superintendent's Compendium. Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are rights protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. People may exercise these rights peacefully in national parks, but the National Park Service retains as its highest priority the protection of park visitors and resources. Therefore, the National Park Service requires a permit for most First Amendment activities in order to establish the location, time, number of participants, and other general conditions under which such events may occur. Demonstrations are allowed within park designated areas. The content of First Amendment activities is not regulated, and the opinions expressed by permittees do not necessarily reflect the vision, mission and/or policy of the National Park Service.

Designated First Amendment areas are located within the Superintendent's Compendium.

Please email us regarding any questions or comments related to First Amendment permits.

A permit is required for First Amendment activities that meet any of the following criteria:
  • Groups larger than 25 participants
  • Utilizes significant equipment including generators, platforms, tents, etc.

A group of 25 people or less is not required to obtain a First Amendment Permit if they do not meet the criteria above, but they are encouraged to get one as a permit will prevent another group from reserving the area.

Examples of First Amendment Activities:
  • Religious services
  • Political speeches
  • Press conferences
  • Public demonstration, picketing, assembly or rally expressing opinions and views
Type of Activities Not Covered by the First Amendment:
  • Church picnic or social gathering
  • Wedding ceremonies or receptions
  • Political fundraiser or other invitation-only political activity or event
  • Solicitation of donations
  • Community parades, athletics, or sporting events
First Amendment permits are issued at no cost to the permittee. Many of the activities not covered by the First Amendment can be accommodated through a Special Use Permit for which cost recovery will be charged.

Due to ongoing dune restoration efforts, flight permits are suspended. New permits are not available and current permits are suspended. We will post updated information as conditions change.

Smelt fishing fire permits are no longer available and fires are no longer allowed in the park. Visitors are still able to smelt fish during posted hours at various locations throughout the park. 
 

Permit Applications

Permit applications must be submitted at least three weeks and up to six months, before to the proposed event. Your application must include a non-refundable payment for the costs of processing the application. Please submit your payment as a check or money order made out to the National Park Service. The payment is $65.00 for simple activities and $200.00 for more complex events. Additional charges may also apply. Submitting an application does not guarantee the activity will be approved.

 

Filming and Photography

Commercial Filming update

Effective October 28, 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) has rescinded interim guidance that was in place during litigation regarding commercial filming and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial filming in parks.

The most current information on low-impact and non-low impact filming can be found Filming & Still Photography Permits (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

Commercial Filming & Still Photography

Price v. Barr had no impact on how the National Park Service regulates still photography, so there are no changes in how the National Park Service regulates that activity. Still photographers require a permit only when:

  1. the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or

  1. the activity uses model(s), sets(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or

  1. a park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.

You should submit a completed application along with the application fee to the park where you want to film or photograph as far in advance of your planned date as possible. In addition, you should request a meeting with park staff if your proposed activity is unusual or complex. Early consultation with park staff will help them process the submitted application in a timely manner.

Still Photography Permit applications are below.

The National Park Service will collect a cost recovery charge and a location fee for still photography permits. Cost recovery includes an application fee and any additional charges to cover the costs incurred by the National Park Service in processing your request and monitoring your permit. This amount will vary depending on the park and the size and complexity of your permit. The application fee must be submitted with your application.

In addition, the National Park Service has been directed by Congress to collect a fee to provide a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands. The National Park Service uses the following still photography fee schedule:

1–10 people - $50/day

11–30 people - $150/day

Over 30 people - $250/day
You may be required to obtain liability insurance naming the United States as additionally insured in an amount commensurate with the risk posed to park resources by your proposed activity. You may also be asked to post a bond to ensure the payment of all charges and fees and the restoration of the area if necessary.

If you are planning a photography workshop, you may need a commercial use authorization. See the commercial use authorization page for more information.

Should you wish to conduct other business in the park such as guided activities or services, please see commercial use authorization page for more information.

If you are not sure your activity needs a permit, which application to use or have other questions, please contact the Special Park Use Coordinator at(219) 395-1844.

Last updated: November 7, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1100 North Mineral Springs Road
Porter , IN 46304

Phone:

219 395-1882
Indiana Dunes Visitor Center phone number.

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