Illinois Beach State Park

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Illinois Beach State Park
Map showing the location of Illinois Beach State Park
Map showing the location of Illinois Beach State Park
Map of the U.S. state of Illinois showing the location of Illinois Beach State Park
Location Lake County, Illinois, USA
Nearest city Zion, Illinois
Coordinates 42°25′02″N 87°48′42″W / 42.41722°N 87.81167°W / 42.41722; -87.81167Coordinates: 42°25′02″N 87°48′42″W / 42.41722°N 87.81167°W / 42.41722; -87.81167
Area 4,160 acres (1,683 ha)
Established 1948
Governing body

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Designated 1980
Shoreline along the Northern Unit of Illinois Beach State Park
Main beach in the Southern Unit of Illinois Beach State Park
Sign at the start of the beach trail at Illinois State Beach park

Illinois Beach State Park is part of the Illinois state park system and is located along Lake Michigan in Winthrop Harbor, Zion, and unincorporated Benton Township in northeast Illinois. The park is broken into two units that encompass an area of 4,160 acres (1,683 ha) and contains over six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. The two units are separated by the Zion Nuclear Power Station, a currently retired nuclear power plant.

Recreational activities at Illinois Beach State Park include boating, swimming, hiking, bicycling, camping, bird watching, and picnicking. Known primarily for the beach, Illinois Beach State Park also includes dune areas, wetlands, prairie, and black oak savanna. The area at the far southern end of the park is a designated nature preserve, which was named a National Natural Landmark in 1980.[1]

The park was gradually created starting in 1948 when the state acquired the first parcels. The northern unit, acquired between 1971 and 1982, was previously an Illinois National Guard training facility known as Camp Logan, Illinois. During the American Civil War, Camp Logan was a Union prisoner of war camp.

The entry to the beach is usually from a parking area on its north side: north of this carpark is usually the most crowded area in the summer time. South, the beach is less crowded and a mile of shoreline extends to an inlet into a wetland. Depending on weather conditions this inlet may be blocked by a berm from the lake waters, and again depending on weather conditions the water inside the berm may be significantly warmer than Lake Michigan which is rather cold until August. Signs warn of hazards including being trapped in water exchanges.

This area has been used by nudists but it is not recognized as a nude beach. Even though it is inaccessible to police cars, Illinois Conservation Police Officers patrol the area with ATVs and heavy-duty trucks. And though illegal, people may use this area, at least some of the time, without trouble. In 2012 the South Unit has seen an increase in nudists using the beach. As of June, 2015 the trail and beach signs posted at the Nature Center do specifically say "No Nude Sunbathing". The proprietors of a privately run motel have attempted to claim that part of the beach immediately south of the parking area, limiting public access; most visitors ignore signage to that effect. The parking area for the Dead River trails has also been used as pick-up area for gay men. There is no signage relating to this activity.

As the South Unit is not in an actual municipality, the police protection is provided by the Lake County Sheriff's Department. The fire and emergency medical services are provided by the Beach Park Fire Department. The water is supplied by the City of Zion, and telephone service is through the Waukegan switch. The North Unit is in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois which provides primary police and fire/emergency medical services. Both properties also fall under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Conservation Police. Water service is also provided by Zion and phone service comes thorough the Zion/Winthrop Harbor switch.


  1. ^ "Illinois Beach Nature Preserve". National Natural Landmarks Program. National Park Service. Retrieved February 19, 2013. 

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