“A great wheelchair accessible area with paved trails, a fishing pier, beach and stunning views.”
— Rafi Wilkinson
Birding · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views
Free parking and access. Parking lots and associated areas are open daily from 8:00 am to 30 minutes past sunset. No bicycles or motorized vehicles allowed. Pets are not permitted on the beach from the east boundary of West Beach to the Burns Waterway. Pets, except for service animals, are not permitted inside the pavilion. Pets are permitted on a leash (6' or shorter) on the paved trail, breakwater, fishing platform, riverwalk and parking areas.
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk was opened in October 2008. The redevelopment of the site, formerly used by a steel corporation as settling ponds for industrial byproduct and a sewage treatment facility, is a successful model of brownfield reclamation between public and private groups.
Today, visitors can enjoy easy access to the lakefront and beach, trails that highlight dune succession and Burns Waterway, an accessible fishing pier, and a restored 900 foot breakwater. A 3,500 square foot public pavilion includes restrooms, a seasonal snack bar and a glass walled classroom/meeting space.
Need to Know
The trail, pavilion and fishing pier are all wheelchair accessible. There are year-round restrooms and potable water source in the pavilion the north parking lot.
The east and west parking lots are open at all times to fishermen in possession of an after-hours fishing permit and actively engaged in fishing. The riverwalk and breakwater walkway areas are closed to public use from the last Monday of November through March 1st each year, and at other times when ice and snow are present.
Directions from U.S. Highway 20:
Follow State Route 249 north and take the bridge over U.S. Highway 12 towards the U.S. Steel and Precoat Metals businesses adjacent to the lakefront near Portage, IN. Turn left at the stop sign and cross over Burns Waterway. Once over the waterway, turn immediately right and head north, towards the lake, passing the entrance sign. Park only in public designated parking spots and help protect the fragile dune ecosystem along the roadside.
This popular location is a great place to view the ever changing seasons along Lake Michigan and watch dramatic weather and clouds build over the lake. It's an easy location to watch for migrating birds in the spring and summer, and observe shelf ice that forms along the beach edge in the winter. (Keep off the shelf ice; it is extremely dangerous). During the busy summer season, the 125 vehicle parking lots are often full by mid-morning.
All facilities meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The riverwalk has stair access from the south parking area and trail access from the north parking area. Across the road from the waterway, a paved accessible trail connects the south parking lot with the northern facilities. Observe dune plant succession as you stroll along the restored lagoons. The pavilion has accessible restrooms and is a Gold LEED certified building. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a program of the U.S. Green Building Council. The public facilities were designed and developed to minimize their impact on the reclaimed landscape.
The land, buildings, and facilities at the site are owned by the National Park Service and operated in partnership with the City of Portage. To learn more about public programs offered there, contact the Portage Parks and Recreation Department at 219-762-1675, extension 301. Environmentally affiliated groups can reserve the space for classes or meetings by contacting the National Park Service at 219-395-1644. A Special Use Permit (non-refundable $65 application processing fee) is required, along with proof of liability insurance.
The south parking lots are open at all times to fishermen in possession of an after-hours fishing permit and actively engaged in fishing. The riverwalk and breakwater walkway areas are closed to public use from the last Monday of November through March 1st each year, and at other times when ice and snow are present.
History & Background
The national lakeshore was established in 1966 to preserve for the educational, inspirational, and recreational use of the public, certain portions of the Indiana Dunes and other areas of scenic, scientific, and historic interest and recreational value in the state of Indiana. About two million annual visitors enjoy the parks 15,000 acres of wetlands, prairies, sand dunes, oak savannas, forests, and historic sites. The parks beach hugs the southern shore of Lake Michigan from Gary, IN, to Michigan City, IN. For more information, visitnps.gov/indu/planyourvisit/…