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Archive for the ‘Great Lakes Beaches’ Category

A Winter Beach Walk at Good Harbor, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Lake Michigan

Posted by Jody on March 6, 2013

Today’s Featured Guest Writer/Photographer is Beth Dole:

Sleeping Bear Dunes in Northern Michigan has wonderful beaches, and few ever get out to explore their winter beauty. This week Good Harbor beach made national news for a peculiar formation of ice balls on the beach (see last picture).  I couldn’t wait to get out there and check them out, but by the time the weekend rolled around the dynamic beach had of course changed. Now it was frozen sand and ice, with frozen ice balls. The beach was icy enough one could ice skate on it, the rocks were frozen solid with great ice formations to explore.

Winter Wonderland at Sleeping Bear Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter Wonderland at Sleeping Bear Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

My advice to all is to visit the beach all year round, winter can be delightful on the beach.

Winter in Sleeping Bear Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Bear Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Beacr Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Bear Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Beacr Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Bear Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Beacr Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Bear Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Beacr Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Bear Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Beacr Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Bear Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Beacr Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Winter at Sleeping Bear Dunes (Photo by Beth Dole)

Ice Balls (Photo by Leda Jo)

Ice Balls (Photo by Leda Jo)

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is located in Northwestern Lower Michigan along the shores of Lake Michigan. The Visitor Center is in Empire, MI about 25 miles from Traverse City. Miles of sand beach, bluffs that tower 450’ above Lake Michigan, lush forests, clear inland lakes, unique flora and fauna make up the natural world of Sleeping Bear Dunes. High dunes afford spectacular views across the lake. Sleeping Bear Dunes is as old as continental ice sheets and as young as the 1970 Establishment Act that set aside the Lakeshore for preservation of the natural resources and for public use. The most prominent features, and those for which the park is named, are the perched dunes above Lake Michigan. These immense sand dunes are “perched” atop the already towering headlands that are glacial moraines. The dune overlooks at the Sleeping Bear, Empire and Pyramid Point bluffs are about 400 feet above Lake Michigan. With 65 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and numerous inland lakes and streams, the park is wonderfully water oriented.

About the Author: Beth Dole is the mom of two teenagers, avid outdoors person, loves the beach, can be found hiking, biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, trail running, kayaking in the north country when not writing blogs about heart disease. 

A couple more helpful links:

The Official Website of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau



Please stop by and visit Beth at her very informative and helpful blog: Rehabilitate Your Heart.


Just a note: Beth, you are so right! Any time of year is the perfect season for a trip to the beach. Your photos are absolutely wonderful! Many, many thanks for sharing your beautiful, beachy part of the world with us! ~Jody

Posted in Featured Guest Writer, Great Lakes Beaches, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , | 30 Comments »

“The Beachmaker” – Turning Shells into Sand

Posted by Greg on June 4, 2012

Have you seen the billboards and signs posted around lakes, beaches and boat ramps asking boaters to wash their boat to prevent transporting unwanted hitchhikers from lake to lake? Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are one of the hitchhikers they are talking about!

Zebra Mussel Shells (Photo: Greg Books,©Beachmakers LLC 2012)

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources :Zebra mussels and a related species, the Quagga mussel, are small, fingernail-sized animals that attach to solid surfaces in water. Adults are 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches long and have D-shaped shells with alternating yellow and brownish colored stripes. Female zebra mussels can produce 100,000- 500,000 eggs per year. These develop into microscopic, free-living larvae (called veligers) that begin to form shells. After two-three weeks, the microscopic veligers start to settle and attach to any firm surface using “byssal threads”. It is the only freshwater mussel that can attach to objects. They are native to Eastern Europe and Western Russia and were brought over to the Great Lakes in ballast water of freighters… Zebra mussels can cause problems for lakeshore residents and recreationists. Homeowners that take lake water to water lawns can have their intakes clogged. Mussels may attach to motors and possibly clog cooling water areas. Shells can cause cuts and scrapes if they grow large enough on rocks, swim rafts and ladders. Anglers may lose tackle as the shells can cut fishing line. Zebra mussels can also attach to native mussels, killing them.

Zebra mussel shells lining the lake shore (Photo: Greg Books,©Beachmakers LLC 2012)

How does the zebra mussel infestation affect beachgoers, specifically? The massive amounts of razor sharp shells washing up onto a lake’s shore makes walking barefoot on the beach nearly impossible.

Zebra mussel beach on Green Bay, Wisconsin (Photo: Greg Books,©Beachmakers LLC 2012)

What’s being done about this beachy menace? R.J. Elsing of Beachmakers L.L.C. (Pulaski, Wisconsin) has invented a machine that sucks up the piles of shells left behind on shores of lakes infested with zebra mussels and turns them into beach sand. According to an article by, The machine sucks up shells through a large hose, which sends them into a chamber where a ‘tornado effect’ spins the shells around, crushing them as they are tossed against the interior walls, until they disintegrate into sand…Elsing said the machine he was using can crush about 17 cubic yards — or one dump truck load — of zebra mussels per hour, though he’s working on a machine that would process the shells three times faster.

How cool is that?  Good old American ingenuity – turning menacing zebra mussel shells into beach sand!

Want to see how it works? Here’s a Fox 11 News clip.

Here’s to a summer full of  barefoot days at the beach!

Posted in Great Lakes Beaches, Monday Miscellaneous, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fun in the Sun, Chicago Style

Posted by Jody on April 24, 2012

One of the best things about growing up in Chicago was the super-easy beach access!  Chicago has always had a wonderful mass-transit system, but our family was lucky enough to live within walking distance of Foster Beach, in the Edgewater community.  My mom, her four eager kids, and our neighbors, the Donnellys, would all pack our arms full of  towels, sand pails and shovels (and whatever the adults thought we needed for a day at the beach), and happily set out in our flip-flops. Although it was only about a 3/4 mile walk,  it somehow seemed like we had trudged much farther when we finally crossed under the Lake Shore Drive overpass. That’s when we knew we had arrived! WoooHooo! We were spending the day at the beach!

Foster Beach, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago actually has 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, and the best part is that every single mile is free and open to the public! With the official start of the “beach season” beginning across the country on Memorial Day weekend, you’ll be sure to find at least one of Chicago’s 33 beaches to be your perfect combination of sand, sun and fun!

Montrose Beach, Chicago (Photo:Alanscottwalker/Wikimedia Commons)

The Chicago Park District manages Chicago’s lakefront year round.  The Windy City’s beaches are always open but you’ll need to look to the Park District’s colored beach flag for current swimming conditions. Chicago has a simple, standardized, three color beach flag system. The Chicago Park District website suggests: “When you are at the beach, look for a flag near the beach house or on a lifeguard stand. These flags are part of the Chicago Park District’s flag notification system and indicate the current water quality or weather conditions at your local beach.”

Green – Swimming is permitted. Water is calm and water quality is safe based on current monitoring for E.coli bacteria.”

“Yellow – A swim advisory is in effect. Caution is advised while swimming. Water and weather conditions are becoming unpredictable. Restrictions may be implemented. There may be an increased risk of illness based on current monitoring for E.coli bacteria.”

Red – A swim ban is in effect due to severe weather and/or water conditions, which may be hazardous. There may be a risk of illness based on current monitoring for E.coli bacteria.”

So simple! ~Now, let’s go get some sand between our toes, Chicago style!

Posted in Beach Safety Tips, Great Lakes Beaches, Sand and Shoreline, Tallies & Tips | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Environmental literacy: What should every Great Lakes citizen know?”

Posted by Jody on March 27, 2012

Ipperwash Beach - Lake Huron, near Sarnia, Ontario, Canada (Photo:Magnus Manske/Wikimedia Commons)

Ipperwash Beach - Lake Huron, near Sarnia, Ontario, Canada (Photo:Magnus Manske/Wikimedia Commons)

Here at Beach Treasures and Treasure we usually dedicate Tuesdays to posting helpful, ready-made lists and tallies. Today, on the other hand, we found an opportunity for us beach lovers and the citizens of the Great Lakes Region of the USA and Canada to instead pitch in and participate in compiling a fun and useful list!

Do you remember the acronym, learned in elementary school Social Studies class, for reciting the Great Lakes? Just in case you forgot, it’s “HOMES.” H: Lake Huron, O: Lake Ontario, M: Lake Michigan, E: Lake Erie, S: Lake Superior. Together, the five Great Lakes account for over 10,000 miles of (most commonly) sandy shoreline.  We’re talking some really serious beach acreage here!

Holland State Park - Lake Michigan, Holland, Michigan (Photo:Shirl/Holland State Park/Wikimedia Commons)

Here is an easy, interactive way to get involved in promoting environmental literacy. Simply answer this question: “What’s the minimum every responsible citizen of the Great Lakes region should know about their environment?”

In the online article on “Environmental literacy: What should every Great Lakes citizen know?,” David Poulson, the editor of Great Lakes Echo, explains, “The idea is to develop a list and use it as the basis for questions we’ll ask random people – sort of like the Jaywalking feature on the Tonight Show. We’ll video their answers – right, wrong, funny, creative – and conclude with a look at the answer.” (According to Great Lakes, “Great Lakes Echo is a project of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University.“)

Twelvemile Beach - Lake Superior, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Knowledge is power! Promoting environmental literacy can only help develop a better understanding for the preservation and protection of our Great Lakes and their beautiful shorelines, giving rise to a safe and healthy future. I’m looking forward to seeing both the questions and the answers! Hopefully, along the way, we’ll learn a few interesting things!

Have a great day at the beach!

Posted in Great Lakes Beaches, Sand and Shoreline, Tallies & Tips | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Dragonflies and Damselflies and Castles Made of Sand

Posted by Jody on March 21, 2012

Blue Dasher Dragonfly - Pachydiplax longipennis (Photo by Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons)

It’s true, anyone who has spent time during the summer months around inland lakes and beaches has enjoyed the company of dragonflies and damselflies.  These beautiful insects are colorful, agile and downright fun to watch. Growing up in the Midwest, whiling away those hot, humid days at the lake shore, dragonflies exemplified summer as much as sunburns and the sounds of the ice cream truck!

Red Saddlebags - Tramea onusta (Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson/Wikimedia Commons)

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, “No other group of animals – even birds – is as aerially adept as a dragonfly. They can travel forward, backward, and any other direction. Shifts in direction take place at lightning speed, and this agility makes dragonflies awesomely efficient aerial predators. And that’s what they’re doing on the wing – hunting a variety of other flying insects. Prey can range from small flies and mosquitoes, clear up to other dragonflies. Large species have even been observed capturing swallowtail butterflies!”

Ohio State Parks manages 59 beaches on 47 inland lakes across the Buckeye State. These inland bodies of water, along with the beaches of Lake Erie, streams, rivers, ponds, marshes and other wetlands, offer a multitude of exceptional places to spot dragonflies and damselflies. The ODNR states,  “Lake Erie beaches seem to act as swarming areas for migratory dragonflies, which often gather along them in late summer and fall.”

Common Baskettail - Epitheca cynosura (Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson/Wikimedia Commons)

There is an absolutely wonderful, free 76 page field guide entitled “The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Ohio”  made available online by the Department of Natural Resources. It’s packed with useful information and beautiful images. This booklet has everything you and your family need to help identify whether you’ve spotted a dragonfly or a damselfly, descriptions, habitats specific to each species, flight periods and area(s) of Ohio where you may find each one. It also includes a checklist of the 164 species of dragonflies and damselflies recorded to date in Ohio.

Now, there’s some summertime “homework” that I would have loved! How about you?

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Great Lakes Beaches | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gotta Love It! Oak Street Beach, Chicago, Illinois

Posted by Jody on February 24, 2012

I just love visiting Chicago! Sure, I’m partial to my hometown, but with 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and 33 sandy beaches, what’s not to love?

Oak Street Beach (foreground) from John Hancock Center (Photo by Bonfire2k4/Wikipedia Commons)

Oak Street Beach is one of my absolute favorite spots in the Windy City.  With 15 miles of swimming beaches to choose from, you’d think it would be hard to pick favorites.  But this trendy spot, just off Michigan Avenue, is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the incredible energy that is Chicago! Oak Street Beach is worth the trip for the people-watching alone.  During the summer you’ll find swimmers, sunbathers, rollerbladers, runners, ramblers and bicyclists. Families with strollers and bookworms with best sellers all share the same urban oasis.  With its close proximity to Downtown and the famous Magnificent Mile, this popular beach attracts locals and tourists from all walks of life. On a good day, they turn out by the thousands!

According to Chicago’s official tourism site, “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.”

One more reason I love visiting Chicago! Childhood friends ~ at Oak Street Beach in February (Jody, Ellen and Mary) Photo by Alaina Diehl

This photo (with my good friends, Ellen & Mary) was shot on a beautiful, sunny, 58°F February day. There were a few crazy people in the 33°F water, though! Could it have been the Lakeview Polar Bear Club wrapping up their annual Polar Bear Plunge at Oak Street Beach?

Parking is limited near Oak Street Beach.  You may want to explore CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) options. Better yet, if you’re already in the vicinity, complete your Gold Coast experience with a walk to the beach along the paved Lakefront Trail.

The Chicago Park District administers all 26 miles of Chicago’s beautiful lake shore.  Chi-town’s open lakefront parkland and all 33 well-maintained, sandy beaches are free of charge to residents and visitors, alike. Gotta Love it!

~By the way, Chicago’s Navy Pier (also free) is only about a mile from Oak Street Beach. It’s another one of our crowd pleasing, family favorite Chicagoland attractions!

What is your favorite Chicago beach? (I’m partial to Foster Beach, too!)

Posted in Friday Finds, Great Lakes Beaches | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Beachcombing for Petoskey Stones! (Michigan)

Posted by Jody on October 6, 2011

Michigan has an Official State Stone. The Petoskey Stone! Who knew?  The name of the stone comes from an Ottawa Indian Chief, Chief Petosegay (or perhaps: Bedosegay). “The translation of the name is “rising sun,” “rays of dawn,” or “sunbeams of promise”.

Petoskey Stones can be found while beachcombing in the far northern area of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan (Think tippy-top of the mitten)!  The Petoskey Stone is found lining the beaches and amongst the sand dunes in the area around the city of Petoskey, Michigan.  The Michigan State Stone is plentiful on the beautiful, sandy shores of Petoskey State Park. The park’s mile-long sandy beach on Little Traverse Bay is also famous for it’s gorgeous sunsets!

Little Traverse Bay, Petoskey, Michigan (Photo by Bkonrad/Wikimedia Commons)

The Petoskey Stone is both a rock and a fossil. According to the MI DEQ GSD*: “The most often asked question is, “What is a Petoskey Stone?” A Petoskey is a fossil colonial coral. These corals lived in warm shallow seas that covered Michigan during Devonian time, some 350 million years ago.”

Polished Petoskey Stone (Photo credit: Jtmichcock/Wikimedia Commons)

For the science-minded among us: “This specific fossil coral is found only in the rock strata known as the Alpena Limestone. The Alpena Limestone is part of the Traverse Group of Devonian age. The Alpena Limestone is a mixture of limestones and shales. The outcrops of these rocks are restricted to the Little Traverse Bay area near Petoskey.”

The MI DEQ GSD has a wonderful 4-page write-up on the history, lore and facts about the Petroskey Stone.  They even have a very easy to follow, step by step tutorial on hand-polishing these beach treasures!

*All quotes are from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Geological Survey Division.

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Great Lakes Beaches | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Navy Pier, Chicago, Ilinois

Posted by Jody on September 23, 2011

A trip to Chicago is never complete without a visit to Navy Pier!  Extending into Lake Michigan just east of Downtown Chicago, this 3,300 foot long historic landmark is an absolute must for your “Windy City” to-do list. You’ll be  just one of the 8,600,000 annual visitors to enjoy this incredible lakefront playground.  Why? Simply put: Chicago’s Navy Pier has something for everyone with its 50 acres of entertainment and recreation.  Navy Pier has shops, restaurants, and attractions including amusement rides, the Chicago Children’s Museum, and the 32,000-square-foot Crystal Gardens. One of the best things about Navy Pier is the amazing views of the famed Chicago skyline and the grand sprawling shoreline of Lake Michigan.

Navy Pier in Winter (©Jody Diehl)

Another “Best of Navy Pier” is that entry is free. Here are just a few of our family’s favorite free things at Chicago’s Navy Pier, straight from their very thorough website:

“Dock Street, which runs the length of the Pier’s South Dock, is reserved for pedestrians, bicyclists and joggers. In season, four performance areas feature entertainment ranging from jugglers, mimes and stilt walkers to comedians, singers and musicians. Chicago’s dinner cruise ships continue to operate from Dock Street. And, on select summer evenings, fireworks entertain the Pier’s evening visitors.” 

Photo ©Jody Diehl

Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier (Photo ©Jody Diehl)

“The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows is a permanent display of 150 stained glass windows housed in an 800-ft.-long series of galleries along the lower level terraces of Festival Hall. Open since February 2000, it is the first museum in the United States dedicated solely to stained glass windows. It showcases both secular and religious windows and is divided by artistic theme into four categories: Victorian, Prairie, Modern and Contemporary.”

“At the eastern-most edge of the 3,000-foot Pier is the historic East End. Offering the city’s best view of the spectacular skyline and lakefront, the East End also is the perfect place for lunch or a sunset stroll. Period light fixtures, a myriad of flags, picnic benches and wide pedestrian promenades mirror the Pier of the past.

Another Navy Pier family favorite is the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  They put on excellent productions with stellar performances,  clever twists and very creative costuming. Tickets are rather reasonably priced for these first class presentations.

Finally, is a visit to Chicago’s Navy Pier really complete without a ride ($) on the 150-foot-high Ferris Wheel where you’ll have stunning views of the beautiful City of Chicago and its gorgeous Lake Michigan shoreline? I think not.

Navy Pier is the perfect family getaway in any season!

Posted in Amusement Piers, Great Lakes Beaches | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A True Beach Treasure: The Lake Superior Agate

Posted by Jody on September 22, 2011

Lake Superior Agate, cut and polished – Minnesota (Photo by Astynax/Wikipedia Commons)

Minnesota’s State Gem is the Lake Superior agate.  These beautiful red, orange, yellow, white and grey gemstones are generously spread throughout northeastern and north-central Minnesota.  According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:“The agate reflects many aspects of Minnesota. It was formed during lava eruptions that occurred in our state about a billion years ago. The stone’s predominant red color comes from iron, the major industrial mineral in our state. Finally, the widely distributed agate reveals the impact of glacial movement across Minnesota a mere 10,000 to 15,000 years ago.”  The Lake Superior agate can be found in virtually any exposed gravel or pebbly area throughout the state.  Minnesota’s rocky North Shore beaches of Lake Superior are especially good hunting grounds for agate hounds.

Polished Lake Superior Agate – Minnesota (Photo by Diana Stein/Wikimedia Commons)

What a perfect beachcombing find! It’s a lake shore discovery you can display, or with some polishing, wear as unique jewelry.  These richly colored Lake Superior agates can be found on the shoreline as far north as Lake Superior’s Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada.  They can also be found on the pebbly South Shore beaches of extreme northwestern Wisconsin and on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

It can be a  bit tricky to spot the Lake Superior agates in their natural setting. The State of Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources offers many tips and clues for finding and identifying the official state gem. “Agate Hounds”, a very good full-color brochure on the joys of Lake Superior agate hunting, is available for “young naturalists,” though it has helpful  information for agate hounds of all ages.  Be sure to check it out on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.

Additionally, Digging into Minnesota Minerals  includes sections on  the geologic history of the Lake Superior agate, distribution and clues to finding the state gemstone.

Happy beachcombing!  Have a gem of a day! -J-

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Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Great Lakes Beaches | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

MyBeachCast App For Great Lakes Beaches & Beach Hut: Home Away From Home

Posted by Jody on August 14, 2011

Red and Yellow Flag: Area is safe to swim and a lifeguard is on duty. (Photo by cheetah100, Wikimedia Commons)

MyBeachCast App for Great Lakes Beaches

Want keep up to date with what’s happening on the Great Lakes beaches?  The MyBeachCast App is now available for Android users.  IPhone Apps will follow soon. Developed by The Great Lakes Commission, the app is now available for Indiana, Michigan and Ohio beaches with real-time data including wave heights, weather conditions, beach advisories and environmental information.  Illinois, you’re next on the list!  The remaining four Great Lakes states will be online by May 2013.  Very Cool!

Beach Hut: Home Away From Home

Also known as beach cabins or bathing huts, according to Wikipedia, there may be some 20,000 beach huts in the United Kingdom. They’ve come a long way from collapsible horse-drawn rooms on wheels to today’s modern shelters. On the seafront in Hove, Sussex, England, you can call one your own for about $16,142.00 (US) a pop. Check out the Daily Mail Online for more on the “very English joys” of owning your own beach hut!

Beach Huts, Norfolk, England (Photo taken by Mark Oakden of TourNorfolk, from Wikipedia)

I’ll take one in purple!  -J-

Posted in Beaches of Great Britain and Ireland, Great Lakes Beaches, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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