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Northwest Indiana facts for kids

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Map of Northwest Indiana

Northwest Indiana, nicknamed "The Region" after the Calumet Region, comprises Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties in Indiana. This region neighbors Lake Michigan and is part of the Chicago metropolitan area. According to the 2010 Census, Northwest Indiana has a population of 819,537 and is the state's second largest urban area after the Indianapolis Metropolitan Area. It is also the home of the Indiana Dunes, parts of which have been preserved through conservation efforts. The town of Ogden Dunes houses the Hour Glass, a museum showcasing the ecological and conservation efforts of O. D. Frank.

The region's largest city is Hammond, followed closely by Gary. Other municipalities in Northwest Indiana include Burns Harbor, Chesterton, Crown Point, DeMotte, Dyer, East Chicago, Griffith, Highland, Hebron, Hobart, Kentland, Lake Station, La Porte, Lowell, Merrillville, Michigan City, Munster, Portage, Rensselaer, Schererville, St. John, Cedar Lake, Valparaiso, Whiting, and Winfield.


The counties of Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton and Porter are included in the Chicago-Naperville-Michigan City Combined Statistical Area, the broadest of the census-derived Metropolitan definitions. Unlike the majority of Indiana, which operates on Eastern Standard Time, these counties are among six in Northern Indiana that are in the Central Time Zone (the other being Starke). This reflects their close economic integration in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Three counties — Lake, Porter and LaPorte — are served by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission metropolitan planning organization. Northwest Indiana is the home of Marktown, Clayton Mark's planned worker community.

The urban areas of Lake County and the contiguous urbanized part of Porter County are sometimes referred to as "The Region," or colloquially, humorously, or even pejoratively, "Da Region."


West Beach Succession Trail Dune
The Long Stairs up the dune at West Beach on the Succession Trail

The Lake Michigan shore is a major attraction. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which stretches from Gary to Michigan City, is a well-preserved stretch of sand dunes, beaches, grasslands, and forests, as well as several historical homes and buildings.

The terrain of Northwest Indiana varies from very steep and rugged at the dunes, to rolling in the moraines, and to pancake flat in the river valleys. It was shaped by glacial activity and Lake Michigan. The main geographical features of Northwest Indiana include the Valparaiso Moraine, Tinley Moraine, Lake Border Moraine, Iroquois Moraine, Calumet Shoreline, Glenwood Shoreline, Tolleston shorelines, and the Kankakee Outwash Plain.

Chicago Lake Plain

The Chicago Lake Plain covers the relatively flat northern quarter of Northwest Indiana north of the moraines. Initially, the plain was flat, composed of glacio-lacustrine deposits. These formed under the waters of glacial Lake Michigan. The lake formed from the melting glaciers north of the Valparaiso Moraine. Eventually the lake overflowed a low spot on the moraine at the Chicago Outlet near the southwest suburbs. This lowered the lake level to current day Lake Michigan levels (Horsley, 1986). As the lake shrunk, it left a series of sand ridges where its ancient beaches were. Along the Lake Michigan shoreline, the prevailing winds have built a series of dune ridges, breaking up the original flat surface of the Lake Plain.

Wheaton Morainal Plain

Kankakee Physiography modified
Physiography of the Upper Illinois River Basin

South of the Chicago Lake Plain in the central parts of Lake and Porter County and northern LaPorte county is the hilly Wheaton Morainal Plain. The Wheaton Morainal Plain consist of the Valparaiso Moraine and Tinley Moraine, paralleling the Lake Michigan Shoreline. The plain consist of rolling Wisconsinan-age moraines. The Morainal Plain is clayey till, and sandy and loamy till, with areas of sand and gravel. Other deposits include lake clay, silt, and alluvium. Deposits are between 50 and 200 ft thick, with many southern areas have over 200 ft of till (Mades, 1987).

Kankakee Outwash Plain

The Kankakee Outwash Plain (southern Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties) is a flat outwash plain formed by the melting glacier, which was stopped at the Valparaiso Moraine. (Mickelson and others, 1984). Deposits are predominantly sand and gravel, but also include alluvium and fill materials. Deposits average less than 200 ft thick; in the lowlands they can be less than 50 ft thick, while in the upland they can be more than 200 ft thick. Local elevation changes are less than 100 ft. and include many scattered sand dunes.

Bloomington Ridged Plain

The Bloomington Ridged Plain covers only the most southern part of Northwest Indiana in the valley of the Iroquois River in southern Newton and Jasper counties. This area consists of low and rolling hills, i.e., moraines like the Iroquois Moraine with less than 300 ft changes in elevation. The soils are loamy till, lake clay and silt. Unlike the northern half of Northwest Indiana, the Huron-Erie glacial lobe left these deposits in its northeastward retreat. Deposits are less than 200 ft thick, with some more than 400 feet thick.


Census Bureau population statistics

Census Area 2010 Census 2000 Census 1990 Census 1980 Census 1970 Census 1960 Census 1950 Census
Jasper County, Indiana
Lake County, Indiana
LaPorte County, Indiana
Newton County, Indiana
Porter County, Indiana


Major airports

  • Gary/Chicago International Airport (GYY)

Commuter rail

South Shore Train at Dunes Park
South Shore Train at Dune Park Station

*South Shore Line connecting Chicago to South Bend, Indiana, passing through Gary and Michigan City


  • I-65.svg Interstate 65
  • I-80.svg Interstate 80
  • I-90.svgIndiana Toll Road logo 1968.svg Interstate 90 (Indiana Toll Road)
  • I-94.svg Interstate 94
  • US 6.svg U.S. Route 6
  • US 12.svg U.S. Route 12
  • US 20.svg U.S. Route 20
  • US 24.svg U.S. Route 24
  • US 30.svg U.S. Route 30
  • US 35.svg U.S. Route 35
  • US 41.svg U.S. Route 41
  • US 231.svg U.S. Route 231
  • US 421.svg U.S. Route 421
  • Indiana 2.svg Indiana State Road 2
  • Indiana 4.svg Indiana State Road 4
  • Indiana 8.svg Indiana State Road 8
  • Indiana 10.svg Indiana State Road 10
  • Indiana 14.svg Indiana State Road 14
  • Indiana 16.svg Indiana State Road 16
  • Indiana 39.svg Indiana State Road 39
  • Indiana 49.svg Indiana State Road 49
  • Indiana 51.svg Indiana State Road 51
  • Indiana 53.svg Indiana State Road 53
  • Indiana 55.svg Indiana State Road 55
  • Indiana 71.svg Indiana State Road 71
  • Indiana 104.svg Indiana State Road 104
  • Indiana 114.svg Indiana State Road 114
  • Indiana 130.svg Indiana State Road 130
  • Indiana 149.svg Indiana State Road 149
  • Indiana 152.svg Indiana State Road 152
  • Indiana 212.svg Indiana State Road 212
  • Indiana 249.svg Indiana State Road 249
  • Indiana 312.svg Indiana State Road 312
  • Indiana 520.svg Indiana State Road 520
  • Indiana 912.svg Indiana State Road 912

Parks and nature areas

  • Biesecker Nature Preserve, St. John, Lake County
  • Calumet Prairie Nature Preserve, Gary, Lake County
  • Conrad Savanna Nature Preserve, Conrad, Newton County (black and white oak savanna)
  • Fish Lake Wildlife Conservation Area, Fish Lake, LaPorte County
  • Gibson Woods Nature Preserve, Hammond, Lake County
  • Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Porter County
  • Indiana Dunes State Park, Porter County
  • Ivanhoe Nature Preserve, Gary, Indiana
  • Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, Radioville, Pulaski County
  • Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area, Kingbury, LaPorte County
  • LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area
  • Stoutsburg Savanna Nature Preserve, Wheatfield, Jasper County (rolling sand ridges)
  • Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area, Morocco, Newton County
See also: Kankakee River


With a gross domestic product of $28.64 billion in 2015, Northwest Indiana accounts for approximately nine percent of Indiana's gross state product. This figure ranks second among metropolitan areas in the state (after Indianapolis) and 89th in the United States, comparable to the GDP of the El Paso, Texas metropolitan area.

The northern portion of Northwest Indiana is noted for its heavy industry. Gary, Portage, Burns Harbor and East Chicago are home to major steel mills, including the largest North American facilities for both U.S. Steel (Gary Works) and Cleveland Cliffs (Indiana Harbor). Whiting and Hammond are home to the largest oil refinery in the Midwestern U.S., operated by BP. Other industrial outputs include fabricated metals, transportation equipment, and food products.

Since the 1990s, casino gambling has become a significant component of Northwest Indiana's economy. Four casino boats with approximately 207,000 square feet (19,200 m2) of aggregate gaming space are located along Lake Michigan in Lake County. An additional 65,000 square feet (6,000 m2) of gaming space is located in Michigan City.

Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and the Indiana State Legislature formed the entity known as the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) in 2006. The RDA, a special-purpose district, is vested with both legal authority and tax dollars to invest in transportation and economic development throughout the region.

A number of Northwest Indiana's suburban communities serve as bedroom communities for Chicago.


Colleges and universities located in Northwest Indiana include:

  • Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting
  • Indiana University Northwest (IU Northwest) in Gary
  • Purdue University Northwest, which encompasses the formerly named Purdue University Calumet campus in Hammond and the formerly named Purdue University North Central campus in Westville
  • Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer- Closed in 2017, with plans to reopen as a junior college associated with Marian University (Indiana)
  • Valparaiso University in Valparaiso (the largest independent Lutheran University in the United States)
  • Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point.

These institutions offer a variety of degree programs in fields such as business administration, engineering and engineering technology, law, education, computing and information technology, and the liberal arts. Additionally, Northwest Indiana is proximate to numerous other universities elsewhere in Indiana and in the Chicago metropolitan area.

A number of both public and private primary and secondary schools are also located throughout Northwest Indiana and the nearby Chicago metropolitan area.

Notable people

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