You step into a moderately steep descending path, which immediately lends a sense of adventure and discovery. The ravine’s deep walkway is not unlike one in Lake Park, off the par-3 golf course. But this is decidedly a road less-travelled than Lake Park’s.
Yet this site is not remote, the entrance located on Lake Drive, at the east end of Menlo Blvd., a few blocks south of Atwater Beach, which is at the end of Capitol Drive. The preserve’s path has big shouIders, full of tall, wind-whispering trees. And today, early on a late November morning, we soon see the vast, flat-line horizon of Lake Michigan glimmering through the leafless forward branches. To finally reach the water level, you carefully step down a slight drop off of about 25 or 30 feet, manageable for most without ambulatory problems. Or you can burrow through some adjacent underbrush to avoid the cavity.
We have reached the Great Lakefront destination spot of The Shorewood Nature Preserve.
My companion, Ann Peterson, said when as she first arrived here last summer, a huge heron, perched on the water’s edge, took flight with deliberate, ponderous elegance, not because Ann scared it by her presence, she believes.
It’s been noted as a great location for bird watchers, as hundreds of exposed rocks on the north portion provide perches for birds. “Since Hurricane Sandy, Chicago lowered the water level in Lake Michigan and there are hundreds of exposed rocks, making good perches for water fowl,” reports a woman posting on the Milwaukee Area Parks website. “You can see geese, sea gulls, and ducks.” However, in warmer weather the smell there can also reflect that populating as well, but not on our icicled November morning.
Beach rocks at Shorewood Nature Preserve in 2012. Photo courtesy milwaukeeparks.blogspot.com,
But things have changed since then, it seems. Another friend, who discovered the preserve a few years back, said that the preserve had a beach of appreciable size leading to the water’s edge. There’s far less beach now. Now you get to the bottom and you meet the water, almost suddenly. My companion Ann says the “discovery” effect is more dramatic in the summer when Lake Michigan is hidden by three foliage until you get to the bottom, when its grand beauty spills out onto your senses. On our late fall morning, the sky rapidly shifted from blue emblazoned with streaks of illuminated clouds (below), to impressionistic washes of gold and autumnal azure, engulfing fishing boats on the water.
There’s a small “fee” for the preserve visit: a slightly heaving breath and heart, by the time you climb back to Lake Drive.
Here’s a brief photo essay from our visit to The Shorewood Nature Preserve on Saturday morning, Nov. 25:
Shorewood Nature Preserve Morning
Fishermen’s Morn on the Great Golden Pond
A Sun-blessed Surf
November Sky, Rolling Waves, and a Dedicated Angler
A Moment of Solitude
From the Bottom, The Path Down to the Great Lake (drop-off in foreground)
All photos by Kevin Lynch unless otherwise indicated.