Indiana Could Establish Its First Underwater Nature Preserve

A state commission is considering whether to designate a shipwreck 28 feet under in Lake Michigan as the state's first underwater nature preserve.

  • jd marshall

    Image 1 of 5

    Photo: DNR Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology

    The JD Marshall sunk in 1911, killing four people.

  • Hull planks near the center of the J.D. Marshall site.

    Image 2 of 5

    Photo: Indiana DNR

    Hull planks near the center of the J.D. Marshall site.

  • This hook has been removed from the ship.

    Image 3 of 5

    Photo: Frank Oliver/ Indiana DNR

    This hook has been removed from the ship.

  • Hull planking from the ship above ground.

    Image 4 of 5

    Photo: Frank Oliver/ Indiana DNR

    Hull planking from the ship above ground, which came from underwater archeologists' dive on Indiana's shipwrecks in Lake Michigan during the summer of 2011.

  • Underwater photograph from the center view of the J.D. Marshall.

    Image 5 of 5

    Photo: Indiana DNR

    View of a boiler in the center part of the J.D. Marshall.

The Indiana Natural Resource Commission is voting Tuesday on whether to designate a shipwreck in Lake Michigan as Indiana’s first underwater preserve.

The J.D. Marshall was constructed in 1891 to haul timber across Lake Michigan. It sank on June 11, 1911 in the waters of Lake Michigan just off the shore of the Indiana Dunes State Park.

Salvagers tried to raise the ship in the 1980s, but Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan Coastal Program Director Mike Molnar says DNR conservation officers intervened but something went wrong.

“The ship refloat didn’t work out so well and the chains that were holding it broke and she sank back to the bottom again,” he says.

There are more than 5,000 shipwrecks in Lake Michigan and about 200 in Indiana’s waters.

But the DNR has only surveyed about a dozen of them, so Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Interpreter Brad Bumgardner says if the 100 acres around the J.D. Marshall becomes an underwater preserve; it could be used to teach people about its own history and the history behind the numerous other ships most people won’t ever see.

“And this is kind of something that is intangible. A lot of folks will never really actually go to that shipwreck but by learning about it and learning the story they’ll hopefully then want to protect it,” Bumgardner says.

If the commission approves the preserve, it will be marked with buoys. The site will be open to divers, but the designation would prohibit ships from dropping anchor in the area.

Emily Wright

Emily, an Indianapolis native, joined WFIU/WTIU in 2013 as Producer of Noon Edition. She studied Telecommunications and Liberal Arts Management at Indiana University.

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