When we think of the activities at the dunes along the lakeshore, we think of hiking, chasing your friends up and down the hill, or relaxing on the beach. Sometimes just laying out a blanket and enjoying the day is the only activity you want to do. However, one man given the nickname “The crazy old man of the sand dunes” was known for jumping from the top and flying down on his experimental contraptions!


This man’s name was Octave Chanute, a pioneer in aviation and coined the Patron Saint of Flight. Octave was a French-American civil engineer who gave advice and created early schematics for the Wright brothers. He also helped to publicize their experiments and make their work better known around the world. To show his importance and impact to aviation, Octave Chanute was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1963 and a documentary was created about him, which was released in 2020. The documentary was shot and filmed at the Dunes where his experiments and flights actually happened along the South Shore’s beaches.

Octave Chanute at Indiana Dunes

In the summer of 1896, Chanute and a handful of his assistants tested a series of gliders in the Indiana Dunes at the edge of Lake Michigan in hopes of perfecting his creation. Chanute’s creation was an advanced glider for the time period in which he would get a running start and jump off the edge of the sand dunes and glide down as far as possible. When doing his experiments, Octave, as you can imagine, drew quite the spectacle on Miller Beach. With all of his equipment, assistants, and gliders flying down from the tops of the sand dunes, locals gave him the nickname “The crazy old man of the sand dunes” for good reason!

Octave Chanute at Marquette Park Aquatorium

Octave Chanute will forever be remembered in history as a pioneer for modern day flight and will always be a legend around the Indiana Dunes. You can find a statue of him outside of the Aquatorium at Marquette Park in Gary. There is even a bar and grill named after him called Octave Grill in Chesterton, Indiana. Octave Grill is well known for their tasty burgers and warm inviting atmosphere as well as gourmet deserts.

So next time you’re at the beautiful Indiana Dunes along Lake Michigan, take a second and imagine running from the top of the dune, taking a leap of faith, and gliding all the way down to the edge of the shore.

More Blogs on the South Shore's History

Octave Chanute - Aviation Along the South Shore

When we think of the activities at the dunes along the lakeshore, we think of hiking, chasing your
Read More

Preservation Ride through Gary, Indiana

I recently had the opportunity to join the Decay Devils on a preservation ride through downtown Gary, Indiana. This group's mission is to help...
Read More

Top Photo Opportunities along the South Shore

We’ve complied a few of our favorite Instagram-worthy locations throughout the South Shore. Each of
Read More

5 Historic Buildings in Northwest Indiana

The South Shore is rich in many things from landscapes, culture and of course, history. We are lucky
Read More

National Travel & Tourism Week- Historic Sites Along the South Shore

This week, May 5-11, 2019, is National Travel and Tourism Week! Wednesday, May 8th, is Wayback Wednesday which is a day to celebrate Indiana’s...
Read More

Animals and Antiques in Lowell, Indiana

Heavy rain was expected Saturday, so we got up early to get as much fun into our day as possible. After enjoying a delicious and relaxing breakfast at...
Read More

Historic Marriage Mill Returns to Crown Point

Photo from the Lake County Historical Museum: Couples standing in line at the Clerk's Office in the courthouse waiting to obtain their...
Read More

Griffith Historical Park and Train Museum

“The Crossroads of America,” is Indiana’s official motto, and the old adage is ever apparent through most cross streets in...
Read More