Category Archives: Portage Beaches

West Beach, Portage, IN

Hiking trail disappearing into West Beach Dunes
Hiking trail disappearing into West Beach Dunes

The day I visited West Beach was overcast, but the moody atmosphere didn’t detract from the park’s appeal. The short road I took from the parking lot to the beach wound through picturesque sand dunes before arriving at the bathhouse, and visitors can explore them on one of the park’s hiking trails.  There are more than three miles of trails and hikers can opt for majestic views of Lake Michigan from the top of a forested dune, a less strenuous stroll through an oak savanna or bird watching along Long Lake.

West Beach
West Beach

West Beach stretches along the Lake Michigan shore, and was named one of the ten top beaches for families by Parents’ Magazine.  There’s a wheelchair accessible ramp down to the sand and during the busy summer months there’s a lifeguard on duty. My kids and I like to skip stones – my son holds the family record with 8 skips -so I gleefully collected an abundance of flat, smooth, perfect skipping stones from the beach and flung them into the water.

Bathhouse at West Beach

Beachgoers can take advantage of the showers and lockers in the bathhouse, which opens for  the season during Memorial Day Weekend, as well as a concession stand during the season. The restrooms by the parking lot are open year round.

West Beach
N County Line Road
Portage, IN 46368
http://www.nps.gov/indu/planyourvisit/west-beach.htm

Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, Portage, IN

Beach at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk
Beach at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk

While the beach at the Indiana Dunes State Park is the largest and most popular Lake Michigan beach in northwest Indiana, there are several smaller beaches in the area that are worth a visit. One of these is the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk.

Looking out along the breakwater
Looking out along the breakwater

Part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Portage, Indiana’s Lakefront and Riverwalk is small, but pretty and picturesque. On a sunny morning one finds kids splashing in the water while their watchful mothers soak up the sun on a beach blanket, a fisherman perched on the pier casting his line, a motorboat slowly making its way from the river out onto Lake Michigan and couples wandering hand in hand along the riverwalk.

Portage Dunes

The lakefront is free, but parking is limited and can fill up quickly, so it’s best to get there early to find a good spot. Just off the parking lot is a modern, clean pavilion with a concession stand during the summer months, a meeting room, information desk and restrooms. Paths lead out to the fishing pier, the walkway along the 900-foot breakwater, and the beach. The Riverwalk begins at the pavilion and follows the Portage-Burns Waterway a half mile through dunes and a rare freshwater panne ecosystem.

Pavilion at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk
Pavilion at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk

Opened in 2008, the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk lies next to a large steel plant and I actually got lost when looking for it because I didn’t believe my GPS when it instructed me to head toward the plant’s campus to get to the beach. A placard inside the pavilion details how the land was once polluted, but through the efforts of the National Park Service, the City of Portage and other partners, the lakefront was cleaned up, given a Clean Closure designation by the EPA, and turned into the scenic recreation area it is today.

Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk
1000 Riverwalk Dr
Portage, IN 46368
http://www.nps.gov/indu/planyourvisit/portage-lakefront-and-riverwalk.htm

Note: Stay on Midwest Steel road, take a left at the four way stop to cross the river, and the first right across the river is Riverwalk Drive.