I have been walking, walking, walking through the past ten months (!) of Covid, and perhaps you have, too. Walking to get out of the house, walking to get exercise, to get out of the chairs we sit in all day, to deal with stress, with boredom, and to see something new or at least different. I’ve discovered some interesting places on my walks, mostly close to home. Some of them are new to me, some of them I have seen with fresh eyes.
The other day I took a walk in Lincoln Park, near Lake Michigan, about two miles north of the Loop (Downtown Chicago). I set out to investigate the erosion caused by very high lake levels this past year. The lagoons visible from Lake Shore Drive overflowed their banks, and I wanted to see up close what the damage was. I found so much more than I expected — a nature preserve tucked between the lake and the city.
Normally, it can be very difficult to park here, but due to cold weather and Covid, I pulled right up to the curb and parked for free. Here is the lovely nature preserve I found on my way to the lagoon.
Who knew! This is not a part of Chicago that I come to often — though I do sail by on the Drive headed to the Loop. Boardwalks surround a large pond which is no doubt full of life in other seasons. The preserve was opened in 2010, and was recently certified as a Level II Arboretum, under the auspices of the Lincoln Park Zoo, a wonderful free zoo just to the north.
Thanks to native perennial plantings, there was plenty of winter interest. I imagine that 25 years ago, this park would have been planted with neat rows of petunias and begonias.
I set off toward the statue of General Ulysses Grant and the lagoon along the lakeshore.
I’m not sure why Grant is here, since Grant Park is along the lakefront by the Loop, and this is Lincoln Park. But he’s been riding his horse along this piece of the lake since the 1890s.
A berm blocks the view of the lake, and the noise of the Drive, making this area feel out-of-the-way, even though it’s actually right in the middle of things. I admire how the landscape designers put this all together — it really feels like a refuge.
Of course, it helps to visit on a cold day in the midst of a pandemic, if you want to have the place to yourself.
Here’s the view from the top of the stairs — the mezzanine of the statue. The first pavement you see is zoo parking, the first water is the lagoon. Then there’s Lake Shore Drive — a beautiful drive along Lake Michigan, which is the final water that you see below the horizon.
Here’s what I came to see — the erosion of the edges of the lagoon. The water was up over the top of those concrete embankments for several months. I have lived in Chicago for over 40 years, and I’ve never seen that.
This lagoon is more than a mile long, and is used for rowing practice by local crew teams, including the first African-American high school rowing team. It is also popular with local fishermen — it’s connected to Lake Michigan, and apparently you can even catch salmon at the right season.
Back on the path in the nature preserve, I came to this fence, beyond which is the zoo. Fortunately for the animals, they are mostly not behind bars, but are in more naturalistic settings. This fence is aimed at keeping people out when the zoo is closed. Past the families and the low wooden railings you see here are habitats for llamas and camels.
Chicago sits along the Mississippi Flyway, and is a great place for seeing migratory birds. Here’s an earlier post by Jason about another bird sanctuary along the Chicago lakefront a little further north.
I had been walking east and north to this point. As I turned back south, I had a great view of the downtown Chicago skyline, not very far away.
It was a great walk, and I’m looking forward to going back when it’s blooming and full of life.
Our home garden is under a few inches of snow, but Jason just ordered seeds, and spring will come eventually.
Have you been walking during the pandemic, and what new places have you discovered?