Northwest Indiana Birding Opportunities - Miller Beach and Marquette Park
Miller Beach consists of two distinct sites on the southern shores of Lake Michigan; both are very popular with birders throughout the state.
Lake Street Beach is most commonly birded July through August as birders scan the beach and water for migrating shorebirds, gulls, and terns. This site typically requires sedentary birding on the beach just north of the parking lot. Birders often bring chairs to sit on as they wait for migrating birds to fly by and often land on the beach. Another way to bird the site is to walk the beach 1 mile west to the USX Steel breakwall searching for shorebirds on the beach. You can often find birds resting on the breakwall; although is does require climbing onto the large concrete slabs. Primitive and sandy trails due exist to the south of the beach and can be productive for migrating passerines during spring and fall migrations.
During late summer and through fall, birders typically head east to Marquette Park to scan for migrating waterfowl, gulls, and other specialty species including jaegers. For jaegers, the concession stand at Marquette Park is the go-to spot in Indiana.
From Ken Brock’s, Birds of the Indiana Dunes, “the beach parking area virtually marks the southernmost extent of Lake Michigan. Thus migrating birds following both the eastern and western shorelines southward are ultimately funneled to this site. As a result, the fall season, August through November, provides the most interesting birds. The birding is usually best on days with a brisk northerly wind, which seems to stimulate the movement of birds along the lakefront. Over the years more jaegers have been seen at Miller Beach than at any other place in Indiana (and probably the highest number at any site in the entire Midwest).”
Just to the south also exists Miller Woods, part of the Indiana Dunes National Park. Miller Woods is comprised of mostly oak savanna. Many neotropical species utilize this location as stopover habitat during migration, including such WatchList birds as Wood Thrush, Golden-winged Warbler, and Canada Warbler. The Karner Blue Butterfly, listed as a federally endangered species, also can be found within the savannas of Miller Woods.
eBird Hotspot Links:
Marquette Park: ebird.org/hotspot/L984779
Lake Street Beach: ebird.org/hotspot/L271446
Miller Woods: ebird.org/hotspot/L761517
Total Birding Time:
Best Times to Bird:
1 North Grand Boulevard
Gary, IN 46403
Most birding is done from the concession stand (7132 Oak Avenue, Gary) From 80/94 – take IN-51 N/Ripley (Exit 15B) to US 20 and turn left. Turn right onto Old Hobart Road and continue to South Grand Blvd. Then turn right onto South Grand Blvd and continue to Marquette Drive and then turn left onto Montgomery Street. Finally, turn left onto Oak Avenue and the concession stand will be on your right. Lake Street Beach
860 N Lake St
Gary, IN 46403
From 80/94 – take IN-51 N/Ripley (Exit 15B) to US 20 and turn left and continue to Lake Street Beach. At Lake Street Beach, turn right at take Lake Street north for roughly 1.5 miles until you arrive at the parking lot at Lake Michigan.
Hours: Beaches and parking lots are open to the public from dawn to dusk daily.
Ownership: The city of Gary, Indiana owns and operates both Marquette Park and Lake Street Beach.
Admission: Between Memorial and Labor Day is there a $7 parking fee for Indiana residents and $10 for out of state. If you arrive early, you can bypass the parking fee at both sites, but you will have to leave or pay the parking fee when the attendant arrives, which can vary at each site depending on if you visit on a weekday or the weekend. Miller Woods has no entrance fees.
Restrictions: Please obey all posted rules and regulations for each site. This site also requires sedentary birding and because of the fall weather conditions along Lake Michigan, lots of layers of warm clothes.
Parking: Both sites have plenty of parking; although Lake Street Beach can get full during the summer months, which needs to be kept in mind when searching for shorebirds in July and August. However, most birders arrive early enough to avoid any parking issues. Miller Woods is 1 mile to south and has ample parking.
Nearby Amenities: During the summer, Marquette Beach includes a concession stand, vending areas, and restroom facilities. However, in the fall, when most birding occurs, the concession stand and restrooms are closed. At Lake Street Beach, there are portable restrooms on site year-round, but no concession stand exists. Food and fuel is available just south in nearby Miller.
Accessibility: Lake Street Beach is more primitive than Marquette Park. Although the parking lot is paved, the only way to get to the shoreline is to walk across the sand. Marquette Park does contain a paved walking path away from the shoreline and the concession stand area is paved.
Phone Number: Marquette Park - (219) 938-7362 Lake Street Beach - (219) 555-8855
Written by: Matt Kalwasinski
Photo by: Matt Beatty