Sunday, August 30, 2009

Autumn Has Found St Joseph

After a week of rain, came the weekend. Yesterday was an autumnal day, I don't care what the calendar says. It was very cool (low 60s), very windy (I had trouble standing still on the bluff), and it threatened rain all day.

D and I made our way to Lake Bluff Park late morning. The Farmer's Market was open for business and the tents were all set up for the Epicurean Classic. The first thing we noticed at the Farmer's Market was the abundance of offerings. Homegrown Michigan sweet corn was available in abundance but the prices were quite high ($.50 per ear). Not only were the last of the summer fruits (raspberries, peaches, etc.) still available, but the first of the autumn fruits (apples) were too. The day lilies and gladioli of summer were replaced with the sunflowers and mums of fall. But the most obvious produce to signal autumn was the pumpkins! Yikes!

I was sooo not ready to see pumpkins! But like it or not, autumn is here.

We made our way around the food vendor's tables and purchased some raspberries, strawberry jam, salsa, egg noodles, and 2 loaves of bread (1 pumpernickel, 1 cranberry walnut). OK, we bought a couple cookies too ;-)

No, no, we didn't forget K. Fuzzy Butz bakery had a table of dog goodies set up and K got a Woofy Stick.

Looking out from the bluff, we could see that the latest construction projects are making good progress. The Rose Fountain will have it's grand opening next weekend. The carousel is really taking shape. The other buildings look almost ready for occupancy.

It was not the best of weekends (weather-wise) for the Epicurean Classic.

So very unfortunate. The wind was blowing so hard you had to brace against it.

And it was a gloomy day. It was hard to see the chefs under the tent for the book signings.
There were a few hardy souls out in shorts, but even those people had light jackets on.

Labor Day is still a week away, but autumn has already come to St. Joseph.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Beaches of the St. Joseph Area: Jean Klock Park Beach

Jean Klock Park Beach is just "a few houses" north of St. Joseph's Tiscornia Beach in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Like Tiscornia Beach, it has beautiful views of the lighthouses on St. Joseph's north pier and a beautiful sandy shoreline on Lake Michigan.

There's a newly paved parking lot at Jean Klock Park but you do have to pay to park.
There's also a pretty new pavilion that reminds me of the Shadowland Pavilion at Silver Beach.

I understand there's a concession stand and playground equipment at Jean Klock but I didn't see those things when I was there. I did notice that the beach grass grows closer to the water at Jean Klock than it does at the other beaches. It sort of has a more natural, less commercial look to it than the other beaches in the area do.

West Michigan beaches are terrific! Why does everyone from the Detroit area want to go Up North?

Other beaches of interest in the St. Joseph area:
Silver Beach
Lion's Park Beach
Tiscornia Beach

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Beaches of the St. Joseph Area: Tiscornia Beach

Tiscornia Beach, in the city of St. Joseph, Michigan, is the beach immediately north of Silver Beach. Like St. Joseph's Lion's Park Beach, it too is an unattended/swim-at-your-own-risk beach. You can't beat the beautiful shallow, sandy beaches of Lake Michigan here!

Tiscornia Beach is owned by the city of St. Joseph and there is a fee for parking. The beach includes access to the north pier which has the city's two lighthouses and is a popular fishing spot.

The beach has no playground equipment or picnic tables although there is a picnic shelter with tables off the beach near the parking lot.

This beach has public restroom facilities but no concession stand.

It is less popular than Silver Beach or Lion's Park Beach for beach goers, but often more popular with boaters who will frequently drop anchor in the area.

You can boat-watch the many boats that come and go between he piers and up the St. Joseph River. And if you like to photograph sunsets, you can get some wonderful pictures from this beach too.

Tiscornia Beach is a little bit harder to get to than Silver Beach or Lion's Park Beach because you have to go through the residential district (Edgewater) north of the St. Joseph River. If you take the M-63 (Main Street) bridge north of town and exit at Momany Dr. you'll see signs to direct you there. Enjoy!

Other beaches of interest in the St. Joseph area:
Silver Beach
Lion's Park Beach
Tiscornia Beach
Jean Klock Park Beach

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Beaches of the St. Joseph Area: Lion's Park Beach

A few blocks south of Silver Beach in St. Joseph, Michigan, is Lion's Park Beach. This beach is smaller than Silver Beach but still has a lot of amenities. It also has some advantages. For instance, there is a parking lot that runs perpendicular to the beach. If you're lucky enough to get one of the spots nearest the beach you'll have a much shorter walk to get into the lake than from anywhere at Silver Beach. And, there is no charge for parking at Lion's Park Beach so admittance is free :-) .
Lion's Park Beach has a nice variety of playground equipment, a permanent bathroom structure, and two picnic shelters. Like Silver Beach, it too has a nice view of the lighthouses and piers. It's bordered on the north by a residential area and on the south by the water treatment facility.

Across the road and behind the beach (to the east) is the John and Dede Howard Walking Trail which has an access area at Lion's Park Beach.

There are no lifeguards on duty at Lion's Park Beach. It's strictly "swim at your own risk". But that doesn't stop the beach from filling up on hot weather days! Families will really enjoy this beach which tends to be less crowded than Silver Beach.

Parking can be a challenge at Lion's Park Beach. Your best bet is to get there early in the day, especially if you have coolors, picnic baskets, etc. to load and unload. There is no concession stand at this beach so if you want to have something to eat you'll need to bring your own food and beverages.

Other beaches of interest in the St. Joseph area:
Silver Beach
Lion's Park Beach
Tiscornia Beach
Jean Klock Park Beach

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Beaches of the St. Joseph Area: Silver Beach

With months of summer behind us now, I've had a good chance to spend time at each of the four beaches in the immediate St. Joseph area as well as the south beach at South Haven. So this will be "Beach Week" here on the Discover St. Joseph blog and each day I'll share with you what I've observed about each beach. If you're a beach lover like I am, you're in for a treat!

Without a doubt the most popular beach in the St. Joseph area is Silver Beach. It's the one you see from Lake Bluff Park in downtown St. Joe.
Silver Beach, which used to be the home of the Silver Beach Amusement Park, is owned and managed by Berrien County.
There is a nominal fee for daily parking or an annual pass can be purchased. There are concessions available at S.O.S. (Schu's On Silver Beach) consisting of soft drinks, fries, burgers, hot dogs, brats, cookies, etc.

In addition to the concession stand, Silver Beach has a beautiful and well maintained sandy beach. Lake Michigan can be cool in early summer but from July until well after Labor Day the water is very comfortable for swimming. The lake water is fairly shallow making it fun to play in even for small children (with supervision of course!). And there are two life guard chairs that are staffed during the days when the beach is open. You can bring your own food and beverages, chairs, umbrellas, etc.

There are public restrooms and changing facilities available. Sometimes there are lines for the women's restroom but that's no different than many other public venues. The facilities are fairly clean and regularly maintained.

If swimming is not your thing, don't despair! There are several beach volleyball nets set up on Silver Beach. Just bring your ball and your friends and have yourself some fun!

Kids will enjoy all the playground equipment on the beach!

You can also stroll along the paved walkway and admire the art sculptures that line the area. There are several of them and they all add to the beauty that is Silver Beach.

The South Pier is accessible from Silver Beach. The pier marks the southern shoreline of the mouth of the St. Joseph River. Often you'll find people walking, jogging, fishing, or just sitting along the pier. It provides a great vantage point for taking photos of boats going into and coming out of the river as well as the two lighthouses on the North Pier.

The Shadowland Pavillion is located in Silver Beach Park near the St. Joseph River. There are concerts performed there from time to time including a concert and fireworks on the Fourth of July.

When the sun gets low in the sky and another day at the beach comes to an end, you'll often find photography buffs flocking to Silver Beach to catch a beautiful Lake Michigan sunset. Like a moth to a flame, they come, cameras in hand. You'll also see them gather before an oncoming storm. The photo opportunities are wonderful and always different. Just this week I was down at Silver Beach three evenings in a row to catch the sunset. One evening was particularly windy and cloudy which made for dramatic waves and cloud colors. The next evening there were four kite boarders surfing just offshore up and down the beach. And last evening there was a pod of sailboats on the lake silhouetted by the late day sun. I was able to get beautiful and very different pictures of the sunset each day.

Silver Beach has something for everyone. Which is a good thing because you can't always count on the beach to be open for swimming. When there are windy conditions at the beach it will often be closed because of the risk of potentially dangerous rip currents. Every year there are swimmers who don't heed the warnings and they get themselves caught in a current that pulls them out into the lake. It's not a good idea to ignore the warnings! It's easy to tell if there is a rip current warning because you'll see red flags flying from the lifeguard chairs and from places around the beach.

If you can catch an internet connection you can look online for rip current warnings. Near the top of the left column of this blog you'll see the current weather conditions for St. Joseph. If you see the word Advisory! (in red) there, there's a good chance that an advisory statement has been issued similar to this one from the site:

Statement as of 10:02 AM CDT on August 12, 2009

... Increased risk of rip currents today...

Northerly winds will bring an increased risk of rip currents
today... creating dangerous swimming conditions. Rip currents are
more likely near break walls... sandbars... jetties and piers. Both
Warren Dunes State Park and the Michigan City Coast Guard reported 2-3
foot waves at 10 am.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

It is recommended that people stay out of the water. Rip
currents are strong narrow channels of water that flow away
from the beach... out to deeper water. If you get caught in a rip
current... wade or swim parallel to the beach until out of its
pull... and then head back to shore.
Heed the advisory. Play it safe. There is much fun to be had at Silver Beach. It's a great place on the lake. Enjoy!

Other beaches of interest in the St. Joseph area:
Silver Beach
Lion's Park Beach
Tiscornia Beach
Jean Klock Park Beach