Insane Video of Lake Michigan Coastal Erosion

This video is insane. I have watched it about five times (I recommend looking at it in 4K).

Some context is needed here.

This is where I grew up. I grew up in Ogden Dunes, Indiana, a posh neighborhood sitting on the shore of Lake Michigan. On one side was the Indiana Dunes National Park, on the other side are steel mills. Now it’s surrounded on all sides by National Park.

Water levels in Lake Michigan always rise and lower. We had record lows a few years ago. When I was growing up, we had record-high lake levels, and several houses were swallowed up by Lake Michigan (not in OD, but along the shore). This led residents to take matters into their own hands, and they built a protective steel wall to shore up most of the houses along the lakefront.

Fast forward 20 years, lake levels are now at the highest they have been recorded in decades. Those residents, I’m sure, are quite happy with their steel wall because there is literally no longer a beach at Ogden Dunes right now (or along much of the lakefront). It’s been washed away by the high water levels and recent inclement weather.

A few years after I moved out of OD, the town of Portage partnered with the National Park to build a pavilion and beach walk area along the Burns Ditch waterway. It’s a very nice little place – great for walking. It’s rather funny, growing up this area was closed off to the public, and it was my own private place to explore. Now everyone gets to enjoy it. Which is great.

Except the beach has now been washed away. Not only is it washed away, but the lake has also swallowed up concrete paths, wooden barriers and is slowly eating away at the hill that the pavilion rests on. Lake Michigan is taking back what it wants.

The irony behind all of this is that, while the high levels are a natural phenomena – brought on by high rains and a lack of evaporation in the Great Lakes water system (exacerbated by Climate Change, I’m sure), the damage wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the breakwaters around Ogden Dunes, built to shelter the Port of Indiana (a proper international port that gets ships from all over the world). Those breakwaters disrupt the natural flow of water along the shoreline – which means that it concentrates the lake’s fury on the shiny park pavilion now being washed away.

I’m just in awe of this video. Lake Michigan is relatively new in Geological time – only about 10,000 years old. It’s generally pretty calm and steady and doesn’t affect the wider environment beyond being a beautiful playground and supplying water (not to us, though, our house sits above the Lake Michigan watershed, we get our water from the Kankakee Watershed despite being 10 miles from Lake Michigan). But this is a perfect example of what it is capable of.

I’m reminded of the proverb – it was a foolish man who built his house upon sand.

That seawall along the shore will not protect those houses forever.

Kudos to Timeless Aerial Photography LLC for capturing this video. I’ve subscribed to their channel!