Trail Creek (Lake Michigan)

Trail Creek
La Rivière du Chemin (River of the Trail)[1]
Bird's Eye View of Michigan City, 1869 A. Ruger.jpg
Bird's Eye View of Michigan City, 1869, by A. Ruger (partial sketch).
Native nameMyewes-zibiwe[1]
CountryUnited States
RegionLaPorte County
CityMichigan City, Indiana
Physical characteristics
Source confluenceConfluence of West Branch Trail Creek and East Branch Trail Creek
 - coordinates41°41′12″N 086°50′38″W / 41°41′12″N 086°50′38″W / 41.68667; -86.84389
 - elevation610 ft (190 m)
MouthLake Michigan
 - location
Michigan City, Indiana
 - coordinates
41°43′27″N 086°54′32″W / 41°43′27″N 086°54′32″W / 41.72417; -86.90889East Fork Trail Creek, Otter Creek

Trail Creek is a 7.3-mile-long (11.7 km) north- by northwest-flowing stream whose main stem begins at the confluence of the West Branch Trail Creek and the East Branch Trail Creek in LaPorte County, Indiana, United States. Its mouth is a Lake Michigan harbor and marina adjacent to Michigan City, Indiana's lakefront Washington Park.


In the 1780 Battle of Trail Creek 16 Americans and Frenchmen led by Capt. Hamelin and Lt. John Brady were badly defeated by the British and their Potawotami allies.

Trail Creek was called Myewes-zibiwe in Potawatomi, meaning "trail-creek", which referred to the "Potawotami Trail" that ran from Chicago along the south shore of Lake Michigan, along Trail Creek, then to Hudson Lake and finally to the French Fort St. Joseph and the nearby Jesuit mission (now Niles, Michigan) on the St. Joseph River. The French named it La Rivière du Chemin (River of the Trail), and in 1815 and 1818 it was referred to as the Road River and Chemin River.[1]

In 1816 a shoreline survey indicated that Trail Creek was 30 feet (9 m) wide. At its mouth and on the harbor's western bank stood "Hoosier Slide", a 200-foot-tall (60 m) sand dune (today's Mount Baldy in Indiana Dunes National Park is only 120 feet (37 m) tall). The summit of the majestic dune was mantled with trees, and picnics and weddings were held there where Chicago tourists enjoyed a beautiful view of the lake and the vast lumberyards of Washington Park. Hoosier Slide was removed by sand mining from 1890 to 1920, the sand being used for glassmaking and also for landfill in Chicago's Jackson Park and for the Illinois Central Railroad right-of-way. The former site of Hoosier Slide was acquired by Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) to construct a coal-generating power plant in the late 1920s.

In 1832, Isaac Elston bought 160 acres (65 ha) of land including Trail Creek and the harbor, intending to build a road to homesteaders in central Indiana so that they could export farm crops to Lake Michigan. Michigan City arose from Elston's ambition. Early visitors to the region were captivated by its rugged beauty, its abundance of wildflowers and berries, and especially the majestic Hoosier Slide and other sand dunes. Incorporated in 1836, Michigan City's early prosperity was due to the flowing waters of Trail Creek which afforded good locations for lumber and gristmills. In the 1800s 13 grist mills were located on the banks of Trail Creek.[3]

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