Northwest Indiana

Porter County, Indiana Gary, Indiana Jasper County, Indiana
Gary-Hammond Metropolitan Area
Map of Northwest Indiana

Common name: The Region
Largest city
Other cities
 - Gary
 - Portage
 - Merrillville
 - Michigan City
Counties   - Jasper
 - Lake
 - LaPorte
 - Newton
 - Porter
Population (2019)  813,316

Northwest Indiana, nicknamed "The Region" after the Calumet Region,[1] 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.[2][3][4] The town of Ogden Dunes houses the Hour Glass, a museum showcasing the ecological and conservation efforts of O. D. Frank.[4]

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, 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.[5] Northwest Indiana is the home of Marktown, Clayton Mark's planned worker community.[6]


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

The Lake Michigan shore is a major attraction. Indiana Dunes National Park, 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.[7]

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).[8] 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

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).[9]

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.[9] 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.[10]


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.[11]

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 ArcelorMittal (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.[12]

Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and the Indiana State Legislature formed the entity known as the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) in 2006.[13] 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:

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.[14]

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


Census Bureau population statistics

Census Area 2010 Census 2000 Census 1990 Census 1980 Census 1970 Census 1960 Census 1950 Census
Jasper County, Indiana 33,478 30,043 24,960 26,138 20,429 18,842 17,031
Lake County, Indiana 496,005 484,564 475,594 522,965 546,253 513,269 368,152
LaPorte County, Indiana 111,467 110,106 107,066 108,632 105,342 95,111 76,808
Newton County, Indiana 14,244 14,566 13,551 14,844 11,606 11,502 11,006
Porter County, Indiana 164,343 146,798 128,932 119,816 87,114 60,279 40,076
Total 819,537 786,077 750,103 792,395 770,744 699,003 513,073


Major airports

Commuter rail

South Shore Train at Dune Park Station

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


Area codes

Local media




Notable people

Parks and nature areas


  1. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-13. Retrieved 2012-06-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-01. Retrieved 2015-11-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-30. Retrieved 2012-06-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission Homepage". Retrieved 2015-07-26.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-13. Retrieved 2012-08-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Environmental Geology of Lake and Porter Counties, Indiana An Aid to Planning; By Edwin J. Hartke, John R. Hill, and Mark Reshkin; Environmental Study 8 Department of Natural Resources Geological Survey Special Report 11
  8. ^ Environmental Setting of the Upper Illinois River Basin and Implications for Water Quality Water-Resources Investigations Report 98–4268; Terri L. Arnold, Daniel J. Sullivan, Mitchell A. Harris, Faith A. Fitzpatrick, Barbara C. Scudder, Peter M. Ruhl, Dorothea W. Hanchar, and Jana S. Stewart; U.S. Geologic Survey, Department of the Interior; Urbana, Illinois; 1999; pg 11
  9. ^ a b pg 12
  10. ^ pg 12, 18
  11. ^ "Northwest Indiana has state's second biggest economy". Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  12. ^ "South Shore Casinos | Northwest Indiana Things to Do". Retrieved 2016-07-26.
  13. ^ Mike Pence (2016-07-21). "RDA: Home". Retrieved 2016-07-26.
  14. ^ ""America's Best Colleges 2007"". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on 2007-01-11. Retrieved 2006-11-25.
  15. ^ "The Lakeshore 89.1 FM Homepage". Retrieved 2015-07-26.
  16. ^ a b c d Streets of Northwest Indiana; Rand McNally, Chicago, Illinois, 2008
  17. ^ a b c d Indiana Atlas and Gazetter; DeLorme, Yarmouth, Vermont