Some wonderful habitats are right in Chicago– and easy to reach by CTA. Montrose Point (aka Montrose Harbor) is an easy walk from several CTA bus routes and a somewhat longer walk from the el.
Montrose Point contains a varied patchwork of habitats and diverse wildlife throughout the year. You’ll see the harbor, of course, with calm, protected water– but you’ll also see sand dunes, shrublands, prairie plantings, lawn, beach and the open water of Lake Michigan. Intensive restoration and management have created bird and butterfly habitat at the “Magic Hedge” and the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary; the site has been designated an “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society. On almost any visit, you’ll see and hear birds throughout the park; you’ll also see lots of birders with binoculars draped round their necks.
Montrose Harbor is a vibrant place, busy with all kinds of life– including sparrows, sailors, ducks, gulls, picknickers, skaters, fisher-men/women/kids, dogs and more. You won’t be alone in nature, but chances are you’ll have a nice chat with someone else who enjoys exploring a bit of nature in the city.
About the park:
Montrose Harbor, part of the long span of Lincoln Park, is owned by the Chicago Park District. The address is 4400 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks/montrose-beach/
Volunteers help to maintain the habitat, with monthly Saturday workdays throughout the year. If you’re inspired to help, get involved: http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/mobile/jobs–volunteering/nature-area-volunteer-stewardship-days/
The Magic Hedge was featured in an old edition of the (now, sadly, defunct) Chicago Wilderness magazine: http://www.chicagowildernessmag.org/CW_Archives/issues/spring1998/IWmagichedge.html
Getting to Montrose Point and Montrose Harbor
Bus: The Montrose bus (#78) will take you right to the edge of the park year-round; in the summer the bus goes all the way to Montrose Beach. Take the #78 as far east as you can, then continue east on Montrose into the park. You can also get to Montrose Harbor from the #145 or #151 and the express buses that run along Lake Shore Drive or Marine Drive in rush hours (#136, 144, 146). Exit at Montrose and walk east on Montrose directly into the park, or exit at Buena and cross under Lake Shore Drive, through a viaduct and into the Peace Park. Take the trail north (turn left) and follow the trail, bearing to the east (right)– you’ll walk up to the harbor. Fare: $2-2.25 each way.
El: The red line brings you fairly close, but you’ll have a 1/2 mile to 1 mile walk from the Sheridan stop. From the Sheridan stop, walk north on Sheridan to Buena St. Go east (turn right) and walk to Marine Drive. You’ll cross under Lake Shore Drive, through a viaduct and into the Peace Park. Take the trail north (turn left) and follow the trail, bearing to the east (right)– you’ll walk up to the harbor. Fare: $2.25-2.50 each way.
Train: Not the best option, since the nearest stop is about 2 miles away at the Ravenswood Station on the Union Pacific-North line.
Once you’re at Montrose Harbor
Follow the sidewalk along the north end of the harbor and you’ll reach the “Magic Hedge” at the northeast corner of the harbor. You can walk along the sidewalk all the way to the point of the harbor. Explore the variety of habitats as you please. When you’re ready to call it a day, head west and cross under Lake Shore Drive at Montrose or Buena to catch the bus (or the el) back home.
While you’re in the area:
The Peace Park is a lovely, sunken garden along the bike path where the underpass connects the lake front to Buena St.
Take a walk through the Buena Park neighborhood in Uptown, just west of the park. The Hutchinson St Distoric District is home to Prairie Style mansions and larger-than-usual city lots. To get there from the park, cross under Lake Shore Drive at Buena, then walk north 1 block to Hutchinson St and walk west, along 2 tree-lined blocks of homes built when this area was an escape from the city.
In winter, the golf course just south of the harbor is a great place for cross country skiing. It’s a wide open space, with a few rolling hills to add some extra fun. Enter the golf course near the lake front, south of the harbor, approximately where Grace St would be if it ran all the way to the lake.
Restaurants and coffee shops are scattered all along Sheridan Rd (two blocks west of Marine), with a few places on Montrose and Irving Park Roads.
author: Susan Ask