Chicago beaches: Wikis


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Ohio Street Beach

The beaches in Chicago are an extensive network of waterfront recreational areas in the Chicago Park District. The Chicago Metropolitan waterfront includes parts of the Lake Michigan shores as well as parts of the banks of the Chicago, Des Plaines, Calumet, Fox, and DuPage Rivers and their tributaries.[1] The waterfront also includes the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the Sanitary and Ship Canal.[1] Historically, the waterfront has been used for commerce, industry, and leisure. Leisure, such as fishing, swimming, hunting, walking and boating, was much more prevalent throughout the river sections of the waterfront system in the early in the nineteenth century before industrial uses altered the landscape. By midcentury, much leisure shifted to Lake Michigan as a result of industrial influence. The first City of Chicago Public Beach opened in Lincoln Park in 1895.[2]

Today, the entire 28 miles (45 km) Chicago lakefront shoreline is man-made.[3] There are twenty nine lakefront beaches in Chicago along the shore of Lake Michigan.[4] Two more are located within city parks. Currents and wave action in Lake Michigan tend to move sand from north to south, where it eventually ends up in the Indiana Dunes. Winter storms erode some of Chicago's beaches, and deposit the sand on others, requiring the Park District to supplement tons of sand yearly. The Chicago Lifeguard Service force is the largest of its kind in the nation, employing over a thousand guards in the summer (between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend). Chicago also has the most swimable and most guarded waterfront of any single municipality in the world. While many patrons complain about the cleanliness of the water, Chicago boasts the cleanest urban waterfront in the United States, and second in the world only to Stockholm; water is tested daily by the Chicago Park District for E. coli and other dangers.



Early beaches were generally funded by private entities such as hotels and private clubs.[5] Late 19th century ordinances prohibited public bathing in the lakes. Social reform movements lobbied for lakeshore use for recreational purposes by the poor and working class.[5] Late nineteenth century bathing norms created demand for public baths for the poor.[6] A second lobbyist motivation was that social refomers of the late nineteenth century saw public beaches as an opportunity to accommodate demand for public baths and eliminate the expenditure of enforcement resources on ordinance violations for public bathing.[5] The city responded by opening the first public bathing beach in 1895 in Lincoln Park primarily as a response to the efforts of the Free Bath and Sanitary League (formerly the Municipal Order League).[5] Spaces were designated for public use and the city accepted responsibility for maintaining the beaches. By 1900 the lakefront was divided into zones of recreational, residential, agricultural and industrial uses. Lake Michigan water quality concerns lead to the reversal of the Chicago river with deep cut of the Illinois & Michigan canal in 1871 and the construction of the Sanitary and Ship Canal at the turn of the century.[1] The 1909 Burnham Plan led to development of the lakefront.[1] Lakefront development was dictated by recreational concerns instead of commercial ones due to the influence of Aaron Montgomery Ward. His belief that the foremost concern was for the public's access to the Lake left its impression on the development of Jackson, Burnham, Grant and Lincoln Parks.[3] Continuing social reform efforts, led to the opening of several municipal beaches in the second decade of the twentieth century. The city reclaimed the privately owned lakefront beaches by the 1920s.[5] The 1919 Race Riot started a history of race riots related to beach resources. In this confrontation, a black youth unknowingly transgressed a racial line of demarcation on the beach and was stoned and drowned setting off days of rioting that lead to several deaths. Many other riots are mentioned under the appropriate beaches below.

Juneway Terrace Beach

Juneway Terrace Beach is the northernmost beach in Chicago. It is located at 7800 north and Lake Michigan[7]. It lies within Rogers Avenue Beach and Park. It is separated from Rogers Beach by a stretch of rip rap protecting three apartment buildings.

Rogers Beach

Rogers Beach lies in Rogers Avenue Beach and Park at 7705 north.[7] Barely one block long, the park also has tennis courts.

Howard Beach

Howard Beach lies in Howard Street Beach and Park at 7600 north,[7] which is just south of Howard Street. It is perhaps 213 feet (65 meters) long.

Jarvis Beach/Fargo Beach

Jarvis beach located at 7400 north and Fargo beach is located at 7432 north.[7] Offshore stretches of riprap act to reduce erosion of this beach, which is about three blocks long.

Loyola/Leone Beach

Located at 7032 North Sheridan and extending for eight blocks, Leone Beach is Chicago's largest.[8]

Pratt Beach

Contiguous with Leone/Loyola Beach located at 1050 West Pratt Boulevard.[7]

Hartigan Beach

Contiguous with Pratt Beach, located at 6800 north,[7] ends just north of Loyola Avenue. Named for former 49th Ward Alderman David L. Hartigan.

Columbia Beach

Columbia Beach is located at 6726 north.[7]

North Shore Beach

North Shore Beach is located at 6700 north.[7]

Thorndale Beach

Thorndale Beach is located at 5934 north.[7]

Kathy Osterman Beach (formerly Hollywood Beach)

Located at the 5800 North block where Lake Shore Drive ends at a curve that feeds into Sheridan Road (near West Hollywood Avenue and North Lake Shore Drive), this crescent-shaped beach serves two groups. The northern half is largely a family beach and the southern half is largely a gay men and lesbian beach.[9] The northern half of the beach has shallow water which makes it kid-friendly.[10]

Foster Avenue Beach

A Hieroglyph found on The rocks on Foster Beach in Chicago

Foster Avenue Beach is located at 5200 north.[7]

Wilson Avenue/Montrose Avenue Beach

The dog beach at Montrose Avenue Beach

Montrose beach is a large north side beach. It is one of few beaches patrons may launch non-motorized watercraft, such as kayaks and catamarans into Lake Michigan. It also has one of only two dog beaches in the Chicago Park District, making it a popular beach for dog lovers. In the fenced off dog-friendly section at the north end of the beach leashless dogs are permitted once on the sand. Montrose beach hosts the Junior Guard regional championships every summer. There is also an "unofficial" dog beach at Belmont Harbor, which is not officially a Chicago Park District beach. Wave action deposited a small triangular patch of sand in a protected corner of Belmont Harbor sometime in the 1980s. This beach is completely fenced in, but patrons allowing their dog off leash may still get ticketed. Wilson Avenue is 4600 north and Montose Avenue is 4400 north.[7] Thus, it is actually a misnomer that the dog beach is at Montrose Avenue Beach because the beach is at the northern end of these contiguous beaches.

Wilson Avenue Beach once officially located at the 4600 North Block, was at one time a privately owned beach. In 1915, the City opened Clarendon Beach (now Montrose Avenue Beach) immediately to the south at the 4400 North Block as a public beach.[11] By 1929, 2 million people had visited the two long public beach.[11] In 1916, a clash over a suspected non-paying transgressor to the private beach led to the beating by lifeguards and members.[12]

North Avenue Beach

41°55′03″N 87°37′39″W / 41.9175°N 87.6275°W / 41.9175; -87.6275

North Avenue Beach
At night facing Castaway boathouse
During day facing Castaway
Independence Day 2008 from Castaway

The North Avenue Beach, located at 1600 north,[7] is considered by many to be Chicago's premier beach. It has the largest lifeguard staff and is home to the most developed beachhouse. Technically running from North Avenue to Diversey Harbor, North Avenue Beach is characterized by its piers which hold the sand in place and create a scalloped shoreline, terminating in a Cape Cod-like hook. The beach hosts international volleyball tournaments as well as millions of sun worshippers every year. North Avenue is also center stage for the Chicago Air & Water Show, which draws over a million people a day from Ohio to Diversey along the lakefront. North Avenue Beach is the site of the annual AVP Chicago Open (2006 is known as the AVP McDonald's Chicago Open presented by Nautica).The best way to get to the beach is to park at the Lincoln Park Zoo and walk over the ovepass that is nearby. There are bathrooms and a restaurant called Castaways right on the beach. North avenue beach is porbably the most trendy beach in Chicago.

Humboldt Park Beach

This is not a lakefront beach. It is located in a former lagoon of Humboldt Park which was dredged and given a sand bottom. At 41°54′24″N 87°42′11″W / 41.9066°N 87.7031°W / 41.9066; -87.7031, this "beach" is mostly used by small children as a shallow wading pond. It is guarded in the summer and drained when not guarded.

Oak Street Beach

Oak Street beach, 1925

Oak Street Beach, located at 1000 north,[7] covers the area from the North Avenue 'Hook' Pier south to Ohio Street Beach (Illinois St. Beach, Olive Beach), about 1.5 mi (2 km). Oak Street is home to the largest area of deep water swimming in the city (1/2 mile (800 m) over 10 ft (3 m)), and is training grounds for hundreds of triathletes and distance swimmers. Until 2006 Oak Street Beach was also the only place in the city where SCUBA divers could dive close to the shore. The north ledge was once a hot spot for the city's gay community, and still is a second home to thousands of sunbathers, runners, skaters and bikers. At one point Oak Street was the city's most popular beach with its proximity to downtown and boasted tens of thousands of visitors each day. Oak Street Beach is also home to Chicago's only chess pavilion.

Ohio Street Beach

A small beach in Olive Park located just north of Ohio Street (400N)[7] east of Lake Shore Drive. It faces north, rather than the usual east, because it formed on its own in a bay created by the Jardine Water Purification Plant which juts out into the Lake.

12th Street Beach

The 12th Street Beach is just south of the Adler Planetarium on Northerly Island (formerly the site of Meigs Field). The beach runs from about 1300 S to about 1450 S, but was named 12th Street Beach rather than (unlucky) 13th Street Beach. When 12th Street was renamed Roosevelt Road the beach retained its name, but now is sometimes called 14th Street Beach. There is also open water swimming that is great for triathletes or avid open water swimmers. This beach is relatively new and almost hidden. Its very easy to get to. Just park the planetarium and walk 100 meters. The beach has bathrooms and consession stands.

25th/26th Street Beaches

No longer extant, of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919.

31st Street Beach

The 31st Street Beach is located in Burnham Park. The beach is host every year to the Junior Lifeguard Chicago Area Tug-o-War. Lifeguards here cover most of the area from the beach north to McCormick Place.

49th Street Beach

49th Street Beach is a small stone beach in Burnham Park. It is not guarded, so swimming is not allowed.

57th Street Beach

The 57th Street Beach is in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood, across Lake Shore Drive from the Museum of Science and Industry. Recent renovations have made it easier to access with two large underpasses at the intersection of 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive. 57th Street Beach provides an area of deep swimming south of Promontory Point.

63rd Street Beach

The 63rd Street Beach is just outside of Jackson Park. It is home to the largest and oldest beach house in the City. In July 1913, Jackson Park Beach was the cite of a clash over required bathing attire when Dr. Rosalie Ladova was arrested for disorderly conduct for swimming in her bloomers after removing her bathing skirt.[13] The establishment of this landmark came about due to the resident's of the area complaining to the city to extend the beach. Thus in 1914, the city order a 10 acre expansion to 63rd St. The South Park Commission architects came up with the plan to build the 63rd Street Pavilion. The construction was completed in 1919. The building historically provided showers, medical rooms, and bathrooms. Due to the building's old age it had to be restored in the year of 2000. Today the pavilion is used by boaters, beach goers, and can be used for special events.[14]

South Shore Beach

South Shore Beach is the beach behind the Chicago Park District's South Shore Cultural Center (formerly South Shore Country Club), which is located at the intersection of 71st and South Shore Drive. The Country club is a magnificent old building and it home to a ballroom, restaurant, golf course and tennis courts. The Beach also runs up against 67th street beach and Jackson Park

Ashe Beach

Ashe Beach Park is a newer addition to the Chicago Park District's beaches, bought in 1979 and named for the late tennis great Arthur Ashe, after he died of AIDS in 1993. In addition to the beach, the park features two tennis courts. It is located between 74th and 75th Streets.[15]

Rainbow Beach

Rainbow Beach is officially located at 3111 E. 77th St.,[16] is a beach in the Chicago Park District's Rainbow Beach & Park that stretches from 75th Street to 78th Street on the Lake Michigan shoreline.[17] Rainbow Beach was named such in 1918.

Starting with the 1919 Race Riot, Chicago has had a long history of race riots related to use of public resources, such as parks and beaches. Rainbow beach was an area of controversy for black and white youth. Black families that were economically dependent on the nearby South Chicago steel mills had avoided the public hostility of the lifeguards and white bathers. Demographic shifts and racial climate change of the 1960s led to a July 7 and 8, 1961 “freedom wade-in” at Rainbow Beach staged by an interracial coalition of demonstrators, including members of the NAACP Youth Council.[18]

Calumet Beach

Calumet Park,[19] which is not to be confused with Calumet Park, IL, contains beaches located at the 9600, 9800 and 9900 South blocks along Lake Michigan. The main beach has a Beach House with a concessions stand.


  1. ^ a b c d Cremin, Dennis H., Waterfront , pp. 864-6, Eds. Grossman, James R., Keating, Ann Durkin, and Reiff, Janice L., 2004 The Encyclopedia of Chicago. The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-31015-9
  2. ^ Sullivan, Timothy E., Sporting Goods Manufacturing , p. 776, Eds. Grossman, James R., Keating, Ann Durkin, and Reiff, Janice L., 2004 The Encyclopedia of Chicago. The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-31015-9
  3. ^ a b Rodriguez, Karen M (2005). "Shoreline Erosion". The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. Retrieved March 24, 2007.  
  4. ^ "The 2007 Beach Season". Chicago Park District. 2006. Retrieved March 22, 2007.  
  5. ^ a b c d e "Shoreline Development". The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. 2005. Retrieved March 25, 2007.  
  6. ^ "Baths, Public". The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. 2005. Retrieved March 26, 2007.  
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Beach & Lakefront Amenities". Chicago Park District. Retrieved March 27, 2007.  
  8. ^ Citysearch Editors (2006). "Chicago Beaches". Retrieved March 22, 2007.  
  9. ^ Citysearch Editors. "Kathy Osterman Beach". Retrieved March 23, 2007.  
  10. ^ "Kathy Osterman Beach". AOL, LLC. Retrieved March 23, 2007.  
  11. ^ a b "Clarendon Avenue Beach, 1916". Chicago Historical Society. 2005. Retrieved March 25, 2007.  
  12. ^ "Wilson Bathing Beach, 1919". Chicago Historical Society. 2005. Retrieved March 25, 2007.  
  13. ^ "Jackson Park Beach, 1920". Chicago Historical Society. 2005. Retrieved March 25, 2007.  
  14. ^ "63rd Street Beach House". Chicago Park District. 2009. Retrieved October 22, 2009.  
  15. ^ "Ashe Beach Park". Chicago Park District. 2006. Retrieved May 10, 2007.  
  16. ^ "Rainbow Beach & Park". Chicago Park District. Retrieved March 21, 2007.  
  17. ^ "Rainbow Beach Park" (PDF). Chicago Park District. Retrieved March 21, 2007.  
  18. ^ Clifton, Charles E. (2005). "Rainbow Beach". Chicago Historical Society. Retrieved 2007.  
  19. ^ "Calumet Park". Chicago Park District. 2006. Retrieved March 23, 2007.  


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