Submitted by: Sarah Smenyak
Visiting the Lake Michigan beaches and wheelchairs, don’t often seem to go together. But limited mobility does not need to keep the dedicated Dunie indoors. There are many adventures to be had in the Dunes, for people of all levels of physical ability and level of adventure.
Accessible access to the lake and the beach can be especially challenging. The thought of pushing a wheelchair through a sand dune does not sound like a day at the beach…. But there are a number of options available to enjoy the lake, the beach, the view, or maybe a summer sunset over the water.
The Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Park is one of the most accessible areas in the Indiana Dunes National Park. The trail from the parking lot is paved, there is a viewing area and pavilion up above the beach, as well as an accessible fishing pier. There is also a ramp down to the beach that might be accessible, depending on the level of excitement that is wanted on a steepish, possibly sandy ramp. In the warm summer months, there is a shady overhang by the pavilion for picnics as well as accessible restrooms and food vendors.
Lake View Beach in Beverly Shores has covered picnic shelters overlooking lake Michigan that are wheelchair accessible. You might not be able to get down to the beach from the shelter, but it is a great spot to enjoy the view, a picnic, or even a late summer sunset. There are accessible restrooms available here as well.
Another way to enjoy the sand and the sun is at West Beach. West Beach has an accessible bathhouse, restrooms, and an all weather ramp down to the beach. In addition, there is a beach wheelchair that is available to check out from the lifeguards, to get on the beach and down to the water. Lifeguards are on duty at West beach from Memorial day until Labor Day.
I little bit further into Michigan, Galien River Country Park, located in New Buffalo, has an amazing set of accessible trails with views of the Great Marsh, and the Galien River, just upstream from the mouth of the river at Lake Michigan. There are over 900 feet of barrier free, hard surface trails that lead to the River View, Fishing Platform and the Marsh Overlook. Wildlife viewing opportunities are a highlight of these trails.
See the dunes by boat on the Emita II
Finally, if you are looking to get on the lake by boat, check out Harbor Country Adventures, which docks in Michigan City. The Emita II is a two deck boat and Wheelchair users can cruise in the lower level that also has a full service bar, restrooms and speakers so you can hear the tour narration. There is a Classic Tour, as well as weekend Party Tour. They also host special events and private tours. Including some fun Friday night themed cruises with Dig the Dunes!
The warm weather IS coming (promise)… so get your wheels ready to head to the Lake.
There are also now a few accessible kayak launches in the area.! Check the lagoon at Marquette Park and Hansen Park in Michigan City.
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