Montrose Pier and the Magic Hedge

Montrose Pier

At the eastern end of Montrose Beach is Montrose Pier which extends out into the lake and ends with fishhook shape.  There 2 tall towers on the pier have lights and foghorns to warn and alert vessels on the lake.

The orientation of the pier has been specifically designed to capture sand being transported south along the shoreline.  The most common orientation for storm wave approach is from the northeast. The Montrose Pier, unlike an offshore breakwater, allows these waves to crash against the shore, but the energy of the waves stays on the beach, and keeps the sand on the beach from migrating southward.  On the east side of the Montrose Pier there is no buildup of sand.  For more than a mile to the south of the Montrose Peninsula, there is also no sand along the shore.  It has been transported by long-shore currents to a set of groins that were constructed off Fullerton and North Avenue Beaches. 

To construct the pier pilings about 16 feet apart were driven into the lake bed, fill was added and 10-square-foot limestone blocks were added.  Over the years erosion and weathering turned them into a jumble of uneven stones. After World War II the park district renovated the pier.  They encased it entirely in concrete and put in a center chain handrail.

The Magic Hedge

The Magic Hedge is on land that is owned by the Chicago Park District and is a small area of trees, shrubs and grasses on a small hill at sandy, wind-swept Montrose Point. In the 1950s and 1960s when the Army operated a NIKE base here the Hedge grew up along the base’s border. The base was dismantled around 1970, but the Hedge remained.

A heavy human presence deters nesting in the area, but it is a great place to see birds during their spring and fall migrations. On a typical day the hedge attracts more than 50 bird species. Experienced birders have reported spotting hundreds of species in a single day. Warblers, swallows and falcons are all dependable visitors; other birds viewed here over the years include barn owls, purple sandpipers, golden-crowned sparrows and Kirtland’s warblers. Early August is particularly dramatic when purple martins gather at the Hedge in groups of several thousand and then take off en masse for their winter homes.

The Magic Hedge owes its popularity among birds primarily to geography. Between Chicago and the forests of southern Illinois and Indiana there are few places for birds to rest and feed; it’s mostly farmland. Birds spend time in Chicago to rest and feed before or after their long migratory flight.

The trees, shrubs and grasses at the Hedge make it a very inviting place for birds to stop, so they do. For the same reasons Lincoln and Jackson Parks along the near north and southern lakefront also attract large numbers of migratory birds.

In recent years the District has allowed a nearby grassy meadow at its southern border to grow taller to provide a better habitat for grassland birds and butterflies.

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