Hilary makes an excellent point about swimming in the Lake. Namely, go swim in the freaking Lake. As I mentioned in a previous post, unlike the Great Cities of the Eastern Megalopolis, it is extremely unlikely that you will find a dead body when you swim in Lake Michigan. The unofficial “MAPH Beach”–so dubbed by last year’s coach of the unofficial-but-very-radical MAPH Swimming, Diving, and Sunbathing Team, Chris Burwell–is located on the north side of Promontory Point, down along the rocks. There are several very easy entrances into the water, but if you have tough feet and are, I dunno, trying to impress people you’ve just met, you can just jump in anywhere. I hate to sound like your mom-grandma-older auntie-or whatever but DON’T dive. At least not the first time. On calm days, you can wade out for about 50-75 yards from the shore in waist or chest-deep water. Very nice!
MAPH beach is not, strictly speaking, a beach, and if you crave sand for some strange reason, there are the 57th Street and 63rd Street Beaches. The upside to MAPH Beach is that it is almost always uncrowded (except for, like, Sunday afternoons). There is no lifeguard, but again, unless you’re afraid of drowning while standing up, you should be, probably, good to go. As for more “scenester” beaches, check out the North Ave Beach. There’s a bar shaped like a boat (Castaways), 800 trillion intense volleyball courts, and lots of bros. So if you’re into that kind of thing, do it. It’s very crowded on weekends, but you might say that just makes for “good people watching.” (The Lake, e. coli, and you….after the jump)
Now, as for the unshakable sense that you’re going to be exposed to something nasty in the Lake. Well. Let me shake that fear. According to the EPA, Lake Michigan now provides drinking water for 6 million people in the Northeastern Illinois area. You can actually see several of the city’s intake stations out in the middle of the Lake from Promontory Point. The Lake has 33 beaches along the city, and is the LONGEST urban shoreline in the United States at 26 miles. Water quality is tested by lifeguards every morning at all the beaches. You can read the updates on the Chicago Park’s Department website. After heavy summer rains, the city may sometimes issue yellow or red flag warnings. Yellows are cautionary, while reds are swim bans. I’ve only seen one red-flag ban at Promontory Point this summer. I went and worked on my tan anyway.
The site also helpfully lists the water temperature. As we get into September, the Lake will be at its warmest, a VERY pleasant 70-75 degrees all this week. So go. Swim. That’s all.