Tag Archives: Lake Superior

The Most Amazing Great Lakes Beaches

Minnesota – Singing Iona Beach on the North Shore of Lake Superior 

Minnesota's Iona Beach on Lake Superior's North Shore

Pink Rhyolite rock creates a beach about 300 yards long and seen from the Highway. The unique aspect that everyone finds amazing is the sound created by the waves upon the stones. When the waves break and crash over the smooth rocks, they make a tinkling or clinking sound as they re-settle before the next wave. The beach it a bit hard to find but many consider it a must stop when traveling on Lake Superior’s North Shore.

The 10-acre park is one of the Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas on Lake Superior. The beach is about 200 yards from a public access parking lot off US Hwy 61, north of Duluth. Look for a small sign saying ‘Twin Points Water’ access at mile marker 42. Just north of Gooseberry Falls, State Park.

Illinois – The North Avenue Beach of Chicago on Lake Michigan 

North Avenue Beach Chicago

It has been called an oasis in a concrete jungle. The North Avenue Beach marquee attraction is its massive 22,000-foot beach house that looks like an ocean liner. Located within Lincoln Park, this city beach offers a million dollar view of the Chicago skyline. You can rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the shoreline. Grab an ice cream or sandwich at one of several food stands. Even get a swimsuit and sandals from apparel shops.

If you are tired of all the sand between your toes, you can explore the main park or check out the chimps in the Lincoln Park Zoo. If the weather turns, you can get out of the sun or rain at the nearby Chicago History Museum on North Clark Street.


Ontario Canada’s Grand Bend & Ipperwash Beaches on Lake Huron

Grand Bend Ontario Beach

This stretch of sand on the South shore of Lake Huron in the Grand Bend area is an experience to behold. The crowds tend to be young around Grand Bend and family oriented along Ipperwash beach. Regardless of where you end up, you can enjoy the beach, the dunes, the ice cream and the vibe. Since this stretch of beach is on the southeast shore visitors can enjoy some of the best sunsets in the region. Grand Bend is the quintessential vacationer town. Beach shops, pubs, restaurants, cottages and art galleries are a short walk away.

The Grand Bend Beach has been designated a Blue Flag Beach. This means it has been certified by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) that the beach meets stringent environment and sustainability standards.

Ohio’s Headlands Beach State Park on Lake Erie

Headlands Beach Ohio

Headlands Beach State Park offers a mile-long natural sand beach on Lake Erie, the largest in Ohio. Visitors can swim, picnic and fish along a nearby break wall. There are trails run through the park along the shore, which date back to the Iroquois.

The park began in the early 1950’s when the state of Ohio began acquiring land to create a state park. The park opened in 1953 as Painesville Beach State Park and changed to Headlands Beach in 1955. In the 1960’s the beach area modernized with the addition of parking lots, concession buildings, restrooms, and changing booths. CNN’s Travel program named Headlands as one of the top 20 beaches in the United States.

Michigan – Saugatuck’s Oval Beach on Lake Michigan


The Saugatuck community is known as a favorite get-a-way for those from Chicago, but the folks from Michigan love it too. Oval Beach is a large sandy, breezy beach with nearby dunes common along the Lake Michigan shore. Walk to the pier and around along the channel for a change of scenery. There is a concession stand for soft serve ice cream cones and drinks.

The best advice we got was to park at Mount Baldhead Park and walk up the narrow road to Oval Beach. Parking is $10/day.

Wisconsin’s North Beach at Racine on Lake Michigan


This famous beach is almost a half mile long on Lake Michigan’s western shore and rated #4 of the “51 Great American Beaches,”  by USA Today.  This 50-acre park also has the distinction of being rated as a Blue Wave Beach (The US version of the Blue Flag rating for environmental certification for beaches) This city beach has also been rated favorably by Parents Magazine and Midwest Living. 

Located in Racine, the beach experience rival’s Chicago’s with live music, volleyball, Kid’s Cove playground, kayak rentals, and food concessions.  The park is also friendly to those with disabilities with handicap ramps. 

Indiana – Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan


With views of the Chicago skyline on crisp clear days and large dunes, hiding remote enclaves and sections of beach this National Lakeshore is a taste of wilderness surrounded by urban and industrial growth. The lakeshore is also known as being a bird watcher paradise as flocks cross the area in migratory patterns extending into the northern Great Lakes. There are ten separate beaches within the large lakeshore park with West Beach, Mount Baldy and Portage Lakefront being the most popular.

Congress designated the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966. The park covers 15,000 acres and incorporates the Indiana Dunes State Park within its boundaries. Indiana continues to manage and charge a separate admission fee to the state park. The park is split in two by the Port of Indiana and several steel mills. 

New York – Sandy Island Beach State Park on Lake Ontario

Sandy Island Beach State Park

Long considered underrated in upstate New York this park is situated on the eastern edge of Lake Ontario thus offering with the prettiest sunsets. The park offers a sandy beach on Lake Ontario, with a bathhouse, picnic area, fishing, and bird watching. If you bring a small sailboat or kayak there is a car-top boat launch. The current high water levels of Lake Ontario are causing erosion and loss of sand of the main beach. The net effect is a narrow strip of beach. This phenomenon is happening in the entire Great Lakes region

The Lake Ontario Dune and Wetland System is a 17-mile shoreline, which extends along Lake Ontario. The dunes are similar to those found on Lake Michigan in Indiana and western Michigan and are the only large freshwater dunes site in the northeastern United States.



A Look Back – 2012 Marina’s Scramble as Water Levels Dropped

We tend to focus on the here and now. However its great to step back and take a look at the recent past. Five years ago the entire Great Lakes was witness to low water levels not seen since 1964. Marina’s were dredging, boats were being damaged on shallow reefs not seen a generation and lake shipping was facing hard times.  There was serious concern on how far it would go and what would happen next.  Some credit the winter of 2014 with turning things around. With the lakes frozen over evaporation was minimized and the levels rebounded.  Here is a post from September 2012.

I got a voice mail early Monday morning from Hoy’s Saginaw Bay Marina in Caseville, “Mike, the wind was really blowing last night and we would like to get your sailboat out. It’s bouncing on the bottom.”  It was the last week in September and we usually try to squeeze one or two of the last day-sails in early October. However I had been monitoring the MichiganHuron lake levels an knew that we had a good chance of seeing a record low last seen in 1964. With a four foot draft we had already settled in the thick muck in our slip in August. I imagined our Catalina 27 hung fast and listing in the shallows. I called back, and Pete told me that they were looking to get all the sailboats out. I told him to go ahead and pull her out. I would see him on the weekend.

Low Water at Caseville Harbor

Pulling into the marina Melissa and I were shocked to see the boat yard full of boats on hard dock in late September. Over the week the Hoy’s crew managed to get all of the big Trawlers out and most of the “Sticks”. (Sailboats)  When we rolled in, there were two boats idling in what was left of the narrow channel waiting to be hauled out. We took a walk up toward the break wall of Caseville harbor and noticed the inner most red can channel buoy hard aground just outside the Huron Yacht Club. This is the mark where I drop our speed in order to not make a wake as we enter the inner harbor. We took shots around the break wall and back just outside the HYC which you can see here.

Channel Bouy Aground at Caseville Harbor
Channel Bouy Aground at Caseville Harbor

Caseville Harbor

The Official Account

The US Army Corps of Engineers noted that Lake Michigan-Huron is 12 inches lower than its level of a year ago. Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario are down 14, 15, and 10 inches, respectively, lower than their levels of a year ago. Over the next month, Lake Superior is forecast to drop another 1 inch from its current level, while Lake Michigan-Huron is expected to fall another 2 inches. The Corps noted that as of now Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Huron are below chart datum. They are in record low territory. At this point we are wondering if we will be able to get “Trillium” back into the water next Spring.

Low Water Make Narrow Channel At Caseville Harbor
Low Water Make Narrow Channel At Caseville Harbor


Lies and Half Truths about Great Lakes Water Use

The blogosphere and news sites have been bristling that former President of the United States, Barack Obama  allowed water from Great Lakes region to be pumped and sold to China.  It’s a Lie. What’s worse is that none of these blog authors are checking the facts. Their lazy practice is to re-blog poorly written posts from  inflammatory sites. Here is the Truth.

Lie #1 – Obama Allowed Great Lakes Water to Be Sold To China as Half the U.S. Faces Extreme Water Crisis
Port Cresent State Park Beach South II

This overused inflammatory headline refers to the ability for companies to bottle water within the Great Lakes watershed. Quotes such as, “Why are we allowing foreign corporations such as Nestle to make millions upon millions of dollars pumping water out of the Great Lakes and selling it overseas?” This is not new news. Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Avita and Nestle have been operating in Michigan and surrounding states for over 15 years. At least now, Nestle and other companies are operating under the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact enacted by the 110th United States Congress effective December 8, 2008 before Obama took office.  This Public Law 110-342 was introduced in the Senate by Carl Levin (D – Michigan) on July 23, 2008 passed the Senate on August 1, 2008 by unanimous consent, passed the House of Representatives on September 23, 2008 and finally signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 3, 2008.

Half-Lie #2 – Companies are pumping millions of gallons of water out of the Great Lakes and selling it to China.

There is bit of truth to this. Companies can collect and bottle water in the Great Lakes region but only in containers of 5.7 gallons or less. However the collection of water is not directly from the lakes but from the aquifers in the region.  Since 2000, Nestle Waters North America sell bottled “Spring Water” marketed with the Ice Mountain label. It’s bottling centers are located in Mecosta County, Michigan and Guelph, Ontario. Each plant supposedly bottles 700,000 gallons a day. However a a 2000 report by the International Joint Commission noted that the Great Lakes basin imports 14 times the amount of bottled water that is withdrawn and shipped elsewhere.

Lie #3 – Obama allowed container ships to come into the Great Lakes, fill up and export our water to Asia.

Long before Obama was a national politician Canada was looking to sell Great Lakes water wholesale. In 1998 the Nova Group obtained a permit from Canada’s Ontario Ministry of the Environment to export approximately 160 million gallons per year of water from Lake Superior for export to Asia in bulk containers. The permit was revoked due to objections of Great Lakes governors and citizens.

Lie #4 – Foreign companies are pumping water out of the Great Lakes without limits.

Water Nestle

Switzerland company Nestlé has been operating a water bottling plant in Michigan since 2000. In 2009 the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation sued Nestle Waters North America/Ice Mountain. A final, out-of-court settlement was reached in 2009, whereby Nestle/Ice Mountain water pumping permit was reduced by almost half. Nestlé agreed to lower its spring pumping in Michigan earlier in the spring season during fish spawning and continue low pumping during the summer months to protect the already stressed stream and lake. Other companies that bottle water from the Great Lakes region include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Avita.

In 2018 Nestle, had been extracting and exporting up to 250 gallons a minute from a well in Evart, Michigan. Nestle filed for a new permit that would allow the company to pump 400 gallons of water each minute of the day, 365 days a year. 

The Michigan DEQ is powerless to stop the foreign company proceeding with their plan despite overwhelming opposition.

The Waukesha Solution

great lakes watershed

The newest threat comes from Wisconsin. The Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, Wisconsin, with a dangerous levels of radium in their groundwater has been approved  to “borrow” up to 8.4 million gallons of Lake Michigan water every day (or 3 billion gallons every year). Waukesha is 17 miles west of Lake Michigan and resides on the cusp of being outside what is considered the Great Lakes Water basin. Normally water from that area would flow into the Mississippi.

The city of Waukesha in June 2016 was given approval to divert water from Lake Michigan for its drinking water supply after eight representatives from the states that border the Great Lakes voted unanimously to allow the diversion. A single no vote would have scuttled the city’s plan. Per the rules of the compact, Waukesha would have to return the same amount of water it takes from Lake Michigan back into the lake. The water would be treated at a Waukesha water plant and dumped into the Root River, where it would flow into Lake Michigan by way of Racine, Wisconsin.

Waukesha is the first city to apply for a diversion of Great Lakes water since a ban on such practices was enacted in 2008. Canada is reviewing the agreement and may intercede with the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact.

The Great Lakes are Stressed

Channel Bouy Aground at Caseville Harbor

The largest, longest-standing and most controversial diversion from the Great Lakes is at Chicago, where the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, finished in 1900, reverses the Chicago River and connects Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. About 88% of all Great Lakes water diversion occurs in Illinois to the Mississippi.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 1967 consent decree, limited the Lake Michigan water diversion through the Chicago canal to 3,200 cubic feet of water per second.

But there’s more water diverted into the Great Lakes than is diverted out; particularly at the Longlac and Ogoki diversions in Ontario. They take water bound for Hudson Bay and divert it to northern Lake Superior at 5,580 cubic feet per second. The diversions were initially created to bolster hydroelectric power generation to help wartime manufacturing in the U.S. during World War II, but then were maintained by mutual agreement between the U.S. and Canada after the war.


Great Lakes Ice Coverage Now a Concern

This winter the Great Lakes experienced near record ice coverage. In March 2014 NOAA reported 92.2% of the Great Lakes were frozen. A record only Historic Ice Coverage 2014surpassed in 1979 with over 94% total ice coverage. This deep freeze over the Great lakes was viewed warmly as ice tends to prevent evaporation of the lakes and provide recovery for lake levels during the spring thaw. The coverage also ment that most of Michigan experienced a very sunny, albeit cold winter. All of the Great Lakes experienced record low water levels in early 2014. Matching levels 50 years ago in 1964.

Effects of Cold Winter Linger

This week Environment Canada posted a report showing lake ice still at an amazing 37% coverage. The coverage is primarily occurring on Lake Superior. Below normal temperatures and ongoing Ice Coverage Huronsnow fall is still occurring regularly the UP of Michigan. It’s estimated that most of the Great lakes will not be totally ice-free until mid May.

Local Impact

The ice has impacted harbor towns across the Great Lakes. Marquette Michigan’s newspaper Mining Journal reported that Marquette harbor is open – roughly two weeks later than normal. Ice breakers provided by the U.S. Coast Guard had to escort two Source: Mining Journalfreighters into the harbor this week. One freighter, The Barker delivered coal to the Presque Isle power plant. The delay in the shipping season forced We Energies to acquire reserve coal stock from  Marquette Board of Light and Power.

In Michigan’s Thumb, the long winter season has delayed work at Port Austin harbor.