For me, it all began at Rainbow beach which also had an expansive park for picnics. I remember the water purification plant which is now called Eugene Sawyer Purification Plant. My memories of Rainbow had a lot to due with dead fish on the beach and closings due to poor water quality during the 1960’s so since the Southside of Chicago wasn’t that far from Indiana and someone had a car, we would head to Indiana Dunes.
The Dunes was less than an hour from Chicago so a day trip was perfect. Located in Porter County, the beach offered about 15 miles of sandy shoreline with great hiking trails and camp grounds. Though some people became afraid to go to the Dunes in July of 1966 since three young women in bathing suits left the beach, climbed in a small motorboat and were never seen again. Others found the Dunes extremely crowded and in the 1970’s so many of us gravitated to Warren Dunes in Michigan instead.
Warren Dunes has three miles of shoreline, six miles of hiking trails and is open year-round. It also has a dune formation that rises 260 feet above the lake with spectacular views and 1,952 acres of recreational opportunity. Located in Sawyer Michigan, the dunes was approximately an hour and 30 minutes from the city by car and you could take a train from Union Station. The beach was never crowded and always clean. Among the park’s dunes are Mt. Fuller, Pikes Peak, and Mt. Edwards, with the most significant being Tower Hill, the highest point in the park, which stands 240 feet (73 meters) above the Lake Michigan. And downtown Sawyer offered bookstores and antique shops.
Throughout the 1980’s, I lived in the Waukegan area teaching high school and sometimes spending my summers working other jobs or going to school. But did I spend alot of time at Waukegan Harbor and Illinois Beach State Park. In fact, I could hear foghorns from my kitchen window…only a few miles from Waukegan Harbor and the Marina.
The first times I sailed, I did with friends from the Waukegan Harbor and when we didn’t sail, many would fish and take a walk out to the lighthouse. One of the best seafood restaurants was located their called Mathons, which had portholes for windows and a friendly bar. On the fourth of July in 1987, we went down to the Harbor for fireworks and I was pregnant with my son. He had been fairly quiet up until that night when he kicked up a storm at listening to the sounds. He was born only a few weeks later.
The first time I said the words Illinois State Beach Park or was it Illinois Beach State Park when I was in third grade on a stage; terrified to speak. I was so worried that my informational one minute speech, completely memorized, would be botched. It was not by choice. It was a place in Illinois given to me by my teacher to research. All third graders was assigned this project.
That is the first thing that I remembered as a guest at the beach and park. Oh, my, it really does exist! Illinois Beach State Park stretched 6.5 miles along the shore of Lake Michigan in Zion. The 4,160-acre park, consisted of two separate areas (North Unit and South Unit), which offered ample opportunities for swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping and simply appreciating nature.
In the 1990s, 2000’s and now, I live in Downers Grove with a pool and a pond in the back yard though I don’t think the pond would be good for you! (Caddyshack movie joke for some who remember. In the movie, the pond was better for you.
However, today, my adult children and I travel back and forth, up and down. We have taken a walk at Rainbow beach, had ice cream at the Waukegan Harbor, took pictures of what used to be the beer store at Illinois Beach State Park, explored the Dunes and added Michigan City to our travels.
All through one’s lifetime, great vacations still spent on the shore’s of Lake Michigan!