40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

Not a Pool: Ohio Street Beach

on November 7, 2018

outdoor lockers

Like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, a bank of free lockers just steps away from the urban waterfront is the stuff that dreams are made of — but the latter actually exists at Ohio Street Beach, Streeterville, Chicago.

signage pointing the way to Ohio Street Beach

Swimmer-friendly public signage points the way to Ohio Street Beach.

A work trip took me to the Windy City in late October. I arrived in the mid-afternoon, had no work obligations until the next morning, and saw that this time slot would be the warmest of my visit, so naturally I hightailed it to the beach immediately after checking into my Magnificent Mile hotel. Could there really be lockers, like the Internet said? Indeed, they were there, almost all free to be claimed!

Back to the hotel in 12 minutes to regroup and hustle to the beach once again for a swim. By then the sun was sinking behind the skyscrapers to the west, shooting long shadows across the waterfront esplanade into Lake Michigan, making my swim that much more memorable. It’s not often that I get to swim in and out of the shade of some of the world’s tallest and most famous structures.

skyscrapers dotting the waterfront north from Ohio Street Beach

The John Hancock Center peers out over the swim course from Ohio Street Beach. This photo is from the morning two days after my swim — better light and no shadows.

All this would have been remarkable enough, but the water was lovely to boot! Swimming in such an enormous body of freshwater seemed otherworldly. In fact, something about the water reminded me of the Blue Lagoon (and it wasn’t the temperature!) — a slight opacity that nevertheless felt really clean.

The swim course is along the sea wall. Channel markers a ways off the side protect the area, and there are regular ladders up out of the water onto the Lakefront Promenade should you wish to exit. Were someone to swim this close to the shore in Manhattan, you can bet that law enforcement would be on the case in no time. Here in Chicago, no one paid me any mind except a girl staging a Barbie photo shoot on the beach.

Due to the approaching darkness, the temperature (mid-50s air and water), and dinner plans, I limited my swim to about 20 minutes. Next time I’d like to make it at least out to the breakwater about .6 miles north, but I’d been confused by what it was when seeing it from water level.

Much to my delight, the clothes I’d shoved into the locker were still warm when I reclaimed them! The remainder of my swims on this trip were in my favorite indoor pool, where I contemplated whether perhaps I should relocate. In the interim, I’ll jump at the chance to return to the City of the Big Shoulders during outdoor swim season.

No swimming sign

Swimming northeast from the beach is not allowed.

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6 responses to “Not a Pool: Ohio Street Beach

  1. Will Ross says:

    “Were someone to swim this close to the shore in Manhattan, you can bet that law enforcement would be on the case in no time. Here in Chicago, no one paid me any mind except a girl staging a Barbie photo shoot on the beach.” Love this detail and hope Ken is aware of her whereabouts and inclinations!

  2. Hannah says:

    I’m sure Ken would approve!

  3. hbonnell says:

    Hannah,Sounds like a very nice swim….HankSent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

  4. Alice says:

    Hannah you are such an intrepid swimmer! Nothing seems to deter you! I love reading about your discoveries! Alice Ann

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