A United States National Lakeshore is an area of lakeshore that has been designated a protected area with the purpose of preserving environmental, cultural, scenic, recreational, natural or habitat resources. They are administered, maintained, and protected by the National Park Service.
In 2008 there were four National Lakeshore areas in the United States, all of them on Lakes Michigan and Superior in the states of Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. The combined area of the four protected areas is 145,641 acres (589.3 km²) and includes:
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; near Munising, Michigan on Lake Superior. Authorized in 1966, Pictured Rocks was the first National Lakeshore and is largest by area.
- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore; in northwest Indiana, near Michigan City on Lake Michigan. It was authorized in 1966, soon after Pictured Rocks. By most estimates, this park is the most popular National Lakeshore, probably due to its proximity to Chicago and other large Midwestern cities.
- Apostle Islands National Lakeshore; in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior. It was authorized in September 1970.
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore; in Leelanau County Michigan on Lake Michigan. It was authorized in October 1970.
The National Lakeshore system is an extension of the National Seashores system which was established in the 1930s to preserve the nation's Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coastlines. The Lakeshore system is centered around the Great Lakes. Lobbying for the Lakes' protected areas began in the 1950s and continued into the 1960s as the areas of public shores were dwindling due to purchase by individuals and industries. The first two designated National Lakeshores were authorized in late 1966. Two other areas were added in 1970. These designations have protected the lakes' shores from over-development, as well as preserved important scenic and historic resources.
As John Muir wrote in The Yosemite, "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike."
Humanity, as subject to the rest of creation—but subject in the sense of a subject of love—has the responsibility to care for nature. A harmonized view considers both usefulness of nature to humans (physical as well as spiritual aspects) and the well-being of the various elements of nature. The establishment of the National Lakeshore system and its designated areas are in this respect, a positive development.