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Chicago Lakefront

Quick Launch to Chicago Harbor Information
Belmont Harbor
Burnham Harbor
Diversey Harbor
Du Sable Harbor
59th Street Harbor
Jackson Park Inner Harbor
Jackson Park Outer Harbor
Monroe Harbor
Montrose Harbor

Considering all the water surrounding Chicago, It would seem that this city would be a boater’s dream destination. Although the city is beautiful, especially from the water, there are few waterfront restaurants or temporary docking facilities available for the day boater.

For trailer boaters, there are numerous boat launches, but parking is limited for vehicles with trailers. Luckily, parking shortages do not occur often – only during lakefront events. For example, if you want to drop your boat into Lake Michigan to view the Independence Day Fireworks (usually on July 3rd), you will need to get to the launch before 8 a.m. Or you could launch your boat at one of the suburban boat launches and take one of the canals into Chicago. But that will mean that you will be returning on the canals, and after dark, that is a slow, arduous process. Because Taste of Chicago runs simultaneously with the Independence Day celebration, it would be nice to be able to dock the boat temporarily to pick up some of the fabulous food available at this festival. The best you can do is touch up to the boat wall in Monroe Harbor, let someone off to buy food, and then tour the marina till that person gets back.

That complaint aside, Chicago is a wonderful city for boating. The skyline is the best in the country. Cruise along the shoreline and view the magnificent office buildings, marinas, and parks. Chicago’s founders set the policy that the waterfronts would remain open, clear, and free of any buildings or obstructions. This foresight has provided boaters and pedestrians a beautiful environment to enjoy the lake and beaches of Chicago. Chicago’s lakefront is almost entirely parks and public access facilities.
Navy Pier
The fabulous structure jutting out into Lake Michigan just north of the Chicago River entrance is Navy Pier. This commercial and pleasure pier was built in 1916, has gone through several periods of non-use and renovation, and is currently the home for various entertainment venues. Tour boats, such as the Windy (148-foot, 4-masted schooner) and the Sea Dogs (70-foot speed boats) line the north side of the pier, sharing space with dining boats, such as the Odyssey and Spirit of Chicago. On the pier you will find restaurants, retail stores, museums, a parking garage, a 1,500-seat theater that looks like a large tent, an IMAX cinema, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 170,000+ square foot exhibition hall, a 150-foot Ferris wheel, and a winter garden inside the glass dome. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Navy Pier hosts a fireworks display every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. and every Saturday at 10:15 p.m.

Just south of Navy Pier is a jumbled collection of old pilings called Dime Pier (in 1930 for only one dime you could take a rowboat ride out to the pier to fish). You can travel alongside Navy Pier and then around to the south side of Dime Pier, listening to live music and waving at the land-bound sightseers. The Chicago Lock is accessible from this side of Dime Pier. Boats gather here while waiting for the locks to open, allowing them to move into the Chicago River.

North of Navy Pier is an artificial peninsula that holds the largest water-purification plant in the word. Before 9/11, dozens of boats would anchor in the slip between Navy Pier and this peninsula for a relaxing day listening to music and people-watching. You can no longer go within 500 feet of the water treatment facility, and the slip of water between is off limits.

North of this area the office buildings give way to magnificent apartment and condominium structures. Near the beach in a fairly calm patch of water created by several breakwaters is “The Basin”. Boaters anchor here to spend a day in and relaxing on the water. The Chicago Lighthouse is situated on one of these breakwaters, just east of Navy Pier.

Heading south from Navy Pier the first harbor you encounter is Monroe Harbor. This harbor is bordered on the north by the Chicago Lock, on the west by Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain, and on the south by the Shedd Aquarium. The path on the harbor’s east side is a veritable sea of pedestrians, skaters, and bikers, a great place to see and be seen. Buckingham Fountain was built in 1927 and is one of the largest fountains in the world. The fountain is operational from Memorial Day to late September. The computers that control the water and light shows were located in Atlanta, GA for over 25 years, but are now controlled locally. Across the street is the Field Museum of Natural History. As you head out of Monroe Harbor's south entrance, you will pass the Adler Planetarium sitting on a piece of land called Northerly Island. The island was originally built in the early 1900’s, but was later connected to land by a man-made peninsula. Meigs Field is also situated on Northerly Island. The airport was recently closed and plans are being made to restructure this small piece of land into a park and public use facilities. In fact, the future of Meigs Field is a hotly disputed issue in Chicago.

Next in your travels is Burnham Harbor situated behind old Meigs Field. You enter the harbor just south of Meigs Field, executing a u-turn to head north into the harbor. Directly behind Burnham Harbor is the newly rebuilt Soldier Field, home for the Chicago Bears. The ever-expanding McCormick Place exhibition complex is situated at the entrance to Burnham Harbor. The McCormick Center is the location for the Chicago Boat Show held every year in January.

Traveling north from Burnham Harbor, after 47th Street the lakefront changes dramatically as high-rises give way to apartments surrounding the University of Chicago and Hyde Park. Just south of the Point, a small extension of land into Lake Michigan, is Jackson Park, the site of the 1983 World’s Columbian Exposition. This previously swampy area was converted into a small city. The only major building that remains now houses the Museum of Science and Industry. Jackson Park is also the location of two marinas, Inner and Outer Jackson Harbor.

A small crescent-shaped beach is part of Rainbow Park. This is immediately followed by another filtration plant. Once again be sure to stay clear of that area.

As you move into the breakwaters that form Calumet Harbor, you will be at the northwestern junction of Illinois and Indiana. Here is where you can enter the Calumet River if you wish to make the Triangle Tour of the Chicago waterways.

Chicago Lakefront Harbors


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Marina Name Belmont Harbor
Address 3600 Recreation Drive
  Chicago, IL
Phone Number 312 742-7673
Web Site  
Email Address  
Directions by car
Directions by boat Approximate harbor entrance: Lat 41° 56.639N Lon 87° 38.026W
VHF Radio Monitors channels 9 and 16; working channel is 69
Launching Fees $20
Hours of Operation
730 docks, mooring cans and star docks Transient docking
Gas & Diesel Small store
Public bathrooms Crane service
Waste pump-out Mast stepping services
Belmont Yacht Club (773-871-4424) Chicago Yacht Club (Belmont Station) (773-477-7575)
Club activities open to public Sailing programs

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Marina Name Burnham Harbor
Address 1559 S. Lake Shore Drive
  Chicago, IL 60605
Phone Number (312) 747-7009
Web Site  
Email Address  
Directions by car
Directions by boat Approximate harbor entrance: Lat 41° 51.210N Lon 87° 36.613W
The entrance to this harbor is to the south of the old Meigs Field, directly in front of the McCormick Place. Since the closing of Meigs Field airport, you can now turn almost directly into the harbor. Temporary docking is dicey at best. The fuel station is at the end of the dock directly south of the boat launch ramps. Because the lake level is down, you will need to climb a ladder to get to the harbormaster’ office and store
VHF Radio Monitors channels 9 and 16; working channel is 71
Launching Fees $20
Hours of Operation cannot launch after 8:00 p.m./take out at any time
1,120 docks, mooring cans and star docks Transient docking
Gas & Diesel Small store
Public restrooms Laundry
Waste pump-out Mast stepping services
Burnham Park Yacht Club (312-747-7684) Burnham Harbor Comfort Restaurant
Launch ramp Parking for 43 vehicles w/trailers Sailing programs

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Marina Name Diversey Harbor
Address 2601 N. Cannon Drive
  Chicago, IL 60614
Phone Number 312 742-7762
Web Site  
Email Address  
Directions by car
Directions by boat Approximate harbor entrance: Lat 41° 55.939N Lon 87° 37.915W
VHF Radio Monitors channels 9 and 16; working channel is 69
Launching Fees $20
Hours of Operation
714 docks and star docks Transient docking
Gas & Diesel Small store
Public restrooms Launch ramp
Waste pump-out Mast stepping services
Parking for 67 vehicles w/trailers Diversey Yacht Club (773-929-8819)
Power boats only  

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Marina Name DuSable Harbor
Address 111 N. Lake Shore Drive on East Randolph
  Chicago, IL 60611
Phone Number 312.742.3577
Web Site  
Email Address  
Directions by car
Directions by boat Approximate harbor entrance: Lat 41° 53.054N Lon 87° 36.630W
Entrance to the harbor is through the Monroe Harbor entrance with a turn to the north along the eastern breakwater, past the stern of the Columbia Yacht Club and into the harbor
VHF Radio Monitors channels 9 and 16; working channel is 67
Launching Fees $20
Hours of Operation
420 docks Transient docking
Small store
Waste pump-out Sailing programs
Columbia Yacht Club (312-938-3625) Club activities open to public
Club activities open to public Sailing programs

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Marina Name 59th Street Harbor
Address 5900 S. Lake Shore Drive
  Chicago, IL 60615
Phone Number 312 747-7019
Web Site  
Email Address  
Directions by car
Directions by boat Approximate harbor entrance: Lat 41° 47. 305N Lon 87° 34.510W
VHF Radio Monitors channels 9 and 16; working channel is 68
Launching Fees $20
Hours of Operation
125 docks, mooring cans and star docks Transient docking
Gas & Diesel Power boats only
Waste pump-out Museum Shores Yacht Club (312-667-9189)

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Marina Name Jackson Park Inner Harbor
Address 6400 S. Lake Shore Drive
  Chicago, IL 60613
Phone Number 773-288-7106
Web Site  
Email Address  
Directions by car
Directions by boat Approximate harbor entrance: Lat 41° 46.777N Lon 87° 34.637W
VHF Radio Monitors channels 9 and 16; working channel is 71
Launching Fees $20
Hours of Operation
165 docks and star docks Transient docking
Gas & Diesel Small store
Launch ramp Parking for 40 vehicles w/trailers
Waste pump-out Southern Shore Yacht Club (312-752-9686)
Power boats only  

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Marina Name Jackson Park Outer Harbor
Address 6400 S. Coast Guard Drive
  Chicago, IL 60649
Phone Number 773-288-1065
Web Site  
Email Address  
Directions by car
Directions by boat Approximate harbor entrance: Lat 41° 46.777N Lon 87° 34.637W
VHF Radio Monitors channels 9 and 16; working channel is 68
Launching Fees $20
Hours of Operation
169 docks, mooring cans and star docks Transient docking
Gas & Diesel Small store
Public restrooms Restaurant
Waste pump-out Junior Sailing Fleet
Jackson Park Yacht Club (773-647-9714) Club activities open to public

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Marina Name Monroe Harbor
Address Foot of Monroe Street
  Chicago, IL 60603
Phone Number 312 742-7643
Web Site  
Email Address  
Directions by car
Directions by boat Approximate harbor entrance: Lat 41° 52.556N Lon 87° 36.614W
VHF Radio Monitors channels 9 and 16; working channel is 68
Launching Fees $20
Hours of Operation
1,000 mooring cans Transient docking
Waste pump-out Tender service (312-742-7659)
Chicago Yacht Club (312-861-7777)  

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Marina Name Montrose Harbor
Address 601 W. Montrose Drive
  Chicago, IL 60613
Phone Number 312 742-7527
Web Site  
Email Address  
Directions by car
Directions by boat Approximate harbor entrance: Lat 41° 57.578N Lon 87° 38.401W
VHF Radio Monitors channels 9 and 16; working channel is 71
Launching Fees $20
Hours of Operation
630 docks, mooring cans and star docks Transient docking
Waste pump-out Corinthian Yacht Club (773-334-9100)