Natural areas are open from dawn to dusk daily.
The natural area at 63rd Street Beach is approximately 12 acres of native dune habitat located along Chicago’s southern Lake Michigan shoreline. It also includes some improved freshwater habitat in the nearshore zone to better support native fish and invertebrates. The dune area, which consists of two main sections located on either side of the beach house is largely dominated by native marram grass but also supports a surprising variety of other dune-loving grasses, small trees, and flowering plants, including prickly pear cactus and sea rocket. This natural area is used during migration seasons and provides habitat for over 200 species of birds, including ducks, owls, raptors, and several scarce species of migratory sparrows. Endangered or threatened species sighted include the Black-crowned Night Heron, Least Bittern, Piping Plover, and Snowy Owl.
63rd Street Beach, located adjacent to historic Jackson Park along Chicago’s famous Lake Michigan waterfront, has transformed into a more ecologically-functional shoreline. Bordered and made iconic by the six-lane roadway of Lake Shore Drive, the entire length of the waterfront was designated as public open space through the Burnham & Bennett 1909 Plan for Chicago and continues to be treasured by Chicagoans and visitors. From 2001-2004, Lake Shore Drive adjacent to the 63rd Street Beach, underwent redesign and reconstruction. Landscape played an integral role in resolving technical issues, such as intercepting first-flush stormwater and the development of pedestrian under-pass access coordinated with the roadway. The landscape design also responded to the unique ecological and historic context of this area, simulating a back-dune landform ecology, and physically tying the beach to the Olmsted-designed Jackson Park to the west. A subsequent expansion of the ecosystem restoration area was installed in 2010, deepening the efficacy of both projects in establishing important dune habitat area along Chicago’s lakefront.
The dunes have benefited greatly from the dedication and hard work of community volunteers who collect and scatter native seed, plant native species, pick up trash, monitor vegetation and birds, and remove invasive species. Learn more about volunteer opportunities by visiting our Community Stewardship Program page.
Help keep wildlife wild, safe, and healthy by following posted signage and Natural Areas Rules and Regulations.