Natural areas are open from dawn to dusk daily.
Did you know that native prickly-pear cactuses grow in Chicago? With its beach, wetland, and dune habitats, Rainbow Beach Dunes Natural Area contains many unusual and rare, threatened, and endangered species. The size of the natural area changes annually depending on lake levels.
Coastal dunes are formed when wind-blown sand is stabilized by the roots of marram grass (Ammophila breviligulata), rushes (Juncus spp.), and other plants. As their leaves catch more sand, the dunes slowly enlarge, creating habitat. If the plants are removed, the dunes will erode. This sandy strip of shoreline is an urban wildlife hotspot and important stopover for birds migrating through the Mississippi Flyway in the spring and fall. In total, over 250 bird species have been recorded at Rainbow Beach.
Much work has been done to bring this natural area to its current state of health. 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 these and other volunteer opportunities by visiting our Community Stewardship Program page.
Explore the dunes in each season to discover the diversity of wildlife that calls Rainbow Beach Dunes home.