open water

The seawall at the end of Fullerton Avenue is another example of an ideal starting location for open water swimming in Chicago.
Open water swimming Ladder from the tiered seawall into Lake Michigan at Fullerton
Like The Ledge at Montrose (Montrose Ledge) and Ohio Street Beach, this can be a perfect place for a swim even during times of high traffic of other lake activity (boats, other swimmers, beach lifeguards, Lake Shore Path traffic) that might interfere with your swim elsewhere in Chicago. This is one of the dependable swim locations during the day on the busiest days of summer when Lake Michigan water temperatures are mild.
Making your way to the easetern end of Fullerton Avenue, you’ll pass near the Theater on the Lake and The Lakefront Restaurant, and cross the often busy Lakefront Trail. Cross through the park and down tiered steps down to seawall, which in the summer is crowded with people sunbathing, stretching, taking a long look at the water. A few of them will even jump in the water. But you’ll have good water to yourself only a short distance from the seawall.
Why is Fullerton as a uniquely good jumping off spot for open water swimming in Chicago?
1.Layered protection from watercraft.
The buoy line restricting entry of boats is a few hundred yards offshore, nearly eliminating the number of jet-ski and other powerboat Interlopers who risk the ire of the Coast Guard. You might see a few paddleboarders inside the buoys.
Paddleboarders near Fullerton Beach in Chicago
The steel structures parallel to the beach that make the area undesirable even for those boats who ignore the buoys. These steel pilings were installed in the late 1880’s as part of the long term lakefill project that stabilizes the Chicago shoreline and beaches to permit the sandy lakebed enjoyed by Chicago swimmers.
Sandy lakebed is visible along the fullerton open water swim route
2.These steel structures also provide a nearly continuous and straight (with one important exception) guide for your swim.
Steel pilings chart an open water swim course from Fullerton beach to North Avenue Beach
Swim south along this route for a 1 mile (1.6km) swim down to the edge of North avenue beach. Come ashore and pull footwear from your open water swim buoy for the walk back along the Lakefront Path, or do a flip turn for a round trip 2 mile (3.2km) swim. Keep the steel pilings to your left on the return northbound open water swim.
In both directions avoid the one big round piling that juts out north of North Avenue Beach.
Only one Chicago Lake Michigan lakebed project piling juts out from the straight line open water swim guide
If you stay away from the designated beach swim area at North Avenue Beach, you’re outside of the domain of the beach lifeguards in summer who will be free to focus their attention on keeping beachgoers safe. This is a good moment to ensure you’re keeping yourself safe without their attention.
3.Should you need to exit the water earlier than planned, sandy shoreline is available parallel to your swim route the full length of the swim, a short distance away (500 feet per description of the lakefill project). Enjoy a walk back or pick up an available bikeshare along the lakeshore path.
4.Enjoy the beautiful skyline view throughout your southbound swim.
Chicago skyline view swimming south from Fullerton