The pier at the 63rd Street Beach is shaped like an enormous elbow, extending far out into Lake Michigan. It’s so thin and narrow that when I ride my bike along it, I have to remind myself not to ride too close to the edge lest I fall off into the blue waters. The path to the pier is unmarked, flanked by tall grasses growing out of loose, sandy soil, reminiscent of the shorelines of Cape Cod or Montauk from my native East Coast. 

There are two enormous towers on the pier that have electrical equipment and lights on them. Their wrought iron ladders could easily be scaled, just as one might have scaled the mast of an enormous sailing ship on the waters of Lake Michigan in the era before steam power, back when the trade in furs was the principal economic raison d’etre for the white settlement of Chicago. 

There are metal rails extending the first part of the pier and wooden panels where fishermen can rest their poles. That length of the pier faces south towards La Rabida Children’s Hospital, with the South Shore Cultural Center visible in the near distance, and further off the stacks of the Gary steel works puffing their plumes of smoke into the atmosphere like a pair of old cronies chomping on cigars while yacking away. 

As you turn left to the outer section of the pier, you face north, bringing Promontory Point and the whole skyline of the Loop into view. The pier now has no guardrails along either side, only one down the middle, and it ends so abruptly that, as you’re walking towards the outer edge, you could imagine continuing your stroll onto the water like a modern-day Jesus.

I rarely see another person on the pier. This comes as a surprise to me given how much city life can oppress and burden its denizens with all its noise, heat, and chaos. To escape and find a piece of peace amid the din and daze of the city is a rarity that can be found at this pier. 

The clamor of the city lowers from the volume of a shout to a whisper, one that is equal to the steady susurration of water lapping against the concrete walls of the pier. The limpid blue of Lake Michigan edges into a horizon of gossamer gray clouds pinned beneath the immense cerulean sky.

Whether it be impromptu encounters with people of the negative kind, the claustrophobia induced by walking between enormous buildings, or an indescribable happening on the L or bus ride home, come to the pier at the 63rd Street Beach for a bit of serenity.

63rd St. Beach, 6300 S. Lake Shore Dr. 6am–11pm.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *