Washington Park & Beach, Michigan City, Indiana

Washington Park & Beach is located in Michigan City, Indiana, and has a beach, picnic area, fitness trails, plus other attractions, including restaurants. This also is right off Route 12. The beach and park are open year around and are free during the off-season. Perhaps the biggest draw, however, is the working lighthouse and its catwalk.

The white stucco Naval Armory in Michigan City, Indiana, is another Art Deco gem (Streamlined Moderne) along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Construction was completed in 1939 and it was designed to train Navy signalmen. The Indiana National Guard now occupies this space. Even the Franklin Street bridge near which it sits has Art Deco stylings. Look closely at the geometric details in the bridge railings while crossing over Trail Creek into Washington Park & Beach.

Washington Park & Beach has ample parking to help visitors enjoy the attractions. Parking Lot #1 is easy to get to from the Franklin Street bridge; just pass Lake Shore Drive and then veer right toward the lot. A walkway at the north end of the lot leads to the beach, picnic tables, and the Lighthouse catwalk.

At the far end of the Parking Lot #1 walkway is this set of stairs, and it leads directly onto the Lighthouse catwalk. (To the left is a rocky and unsanctioned but well-used fishing spot.) Careful, the steps are steep and may be icy even in April.

This working lighthouse was built in 1904 and is open to the public; it's the only one in Indiana. The catwalk was constructed decades ago, and due to its poor condition was scheduled for demolition by the Coast Guard in 1983. City residents worked to add it to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988 and raised the funds to save it in 1994. The lighthouse is currently operated by Michigan City.

In this close-up of the lighthouse, placards warn against swimming and diving.

The Lighthouse, which is situated at the end of the East Pier, shares the shoreline with the Northern Indiana Public Service Company, a utility.

This April 4, 2014, image shows shows dangerous shelf ice that occurs when sections of a lake freeze and floating ice forms. Ice accumulates over time and waves push it to shore. This unstable ice thus builds up on the beach. Ice coverage in the Great Lakes is still at 65.7 percent, the highest in 35 years. Freighters loading up iron ore in Lake Superior still can't cut through to get to the Gary steelworks plant.

Hopefully, spring is just around the corner for this picnic area, which is near the parking lot. Temperatures struggled to reach 43 degrees, and the 20-mile-an-hour winds blew the sand across the beach in sheets. Nevertheless, gulls, people and their dogs came out for a stroll on the beach.

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