Illinois Beach State Park (IBSP) is a protected area that spans six miles along Lake Michigan in northern Illinois – 4,160 acres, to be exact. In 1948, the state of Illinois acquired parts of this area which would later officially become the state park. In 1950, The Illinois Dunes Preservation Society was established to protect and conserve the region – as the area is home to the only remaining beach ridge shoreline remaining in all of Illinois.
While this state park has a wide array of recreational opportunities, it is also an amazing natural resource. IBSP was created by the combination of winds blowing across Lake Michigan depositing seeds on the ground, and the advance and retreat of the glaciers. It now is home to dunes, marshes, forests, and a huge variety of plant and animal life. There are dry and wet areas of the park, with over 650 plant species – including wildflowers, prickly pear cactus, cattails, a wide variety of grasses, and much more. Black Oak forests are a major part of the sandy ridges that make up IBSP.
The park’s South Unit has the greatest variety of habitats, creating opportunities to see some of the most diverse breeding and migratory birds of all of Lake County and northeastern Illinois. Many unique breeding birds can be seen along the South Unit’s nature center and trails. It is also a good spot to see shorebirds during migration. Surprisingly, birdlife doesn’t go quiet in the winter, and many birders spend time exploring the park even in the coldest of months. This state park was also chosen as an Audubon Important Bird Area due to certain criteria it met regarding habitat and protected lands for the Piping Plover, Black Rail, and migratory raptors.
Owen traveled here in September 2021, and has photographed the American Redstart, Blue Jay, Eastern Wood Pewee, Magnolia Warbler, Philadelphia Vireo, and more.
Birds found here