Beach season returns: Sun, sand, surf set the stage for summer
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent May 24, 2012 6:36PM
Christain Smith, of Griffith, powerwashes a picnic area near The Storm water slide at Deep River Waterpark Wednesday May 23, 2012. The popular Ross Township park is scheduled to open Friday May 25. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
If you go
Water quality levels for several area beaches are available at https://extranet.idem.in.gov/beachguard/.
Here’s a rundown of a few of the region’s swimming spots:
Deep River Waterpark, Merrillville
Opens today; hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and until 9:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, through Labor Day, though the park is closed during the week once school starts.
For a complete schedule and fees, go to www.deepriverwater
park.com, or call 947-7850.
Indiana Dunes State
Opens Saturday; guards on duty 11a.m.-6p.m. through Labor Day. Parking is $5 for Indiana residents and $10 for those from out of state. Concessions are available.
• West Beach in Portage opens today; guards on duty 10 a.m.-6 p.m. through Labor Day. The entry fee is $6 for cars and $30 for buses; entrance is free for bike riders and walkers. Parking is free at other beaches in the park.
• The Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk offer concessions.
Information on rip currents is available by calling the visitor center, 395-1882.
Whihala Beach, Whiting
Opens today; guards on duty 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. through Labor Day. Parking is free for Whiting/Robertsdale residents; $7 for Indiana residents; and $15 out of state. Concessions are available.
Signs will be posted for water conditions, or call 659-0860
Updated: July 3, 2012 9:33AM
Ready to dip a toe in and test the water?
Beaches and the Deep River Waterpark start opening today, offering wet relief to the region’s residents through Labor Day.
Officials from a number of beaches said hot weather brought out the crowds last weekend — before they officially opened — and they expect high temps through the Memorial Day weekend to attract the masses once again.
“I think this weekend is going to be crazy,” said Marty Jakubowski, park superintendent for Whihala Beach in Whiting. “Last weekend was crazy and we weren’t even open yet.”
Fresh paint and new sand to replace sand lost to erosion will greet visitors to Whihala Beach this year, Jakubowski said.
Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, meanwhile, offers more than 3 miles of beachfront, but only half a mile of swimming beach, by the pavilion.
“It’s a guarded beach, and the remainder of the beac front is nature preserve, so we don’t allow swimming there,” said property manager Brandt Baughman.
Not much has changed at the State Park from last year, and Baughman expects a busy season.
“We have 1.1 million visitors a year and the vast majority of those end up on the beach,” he said.
The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore stretches across Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties, with the majority of its beaches in lakefront communities in Porter County.
In all, that totals 15 miles of beach with multiple access points, said Bruce Rowe, the park public information officer, though only West Beach offers a lifeguard.
West Beach draws 150,000 to 170,000 visitors a year, Rowe said, adding the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk had around 200,000 patrons last year.
While parking is plentiful at West Beach, that’s not the case at all of the National Park’s beaches.
“Some of the smaller lots on the east part of the park tend to fill up on beach days,” he said.
Getting Deep River Waterpark ready for swimmers takes more than a fresh coat of paint. General manager Chris Landgrave said workers started readying the facility right after the ice-skating rink closed for the season on March 1.
The mechanized aspects of the park need maintenance, including the hydraulics for the wave pool, and employees have to order merchandise for the gift shop, food for the snack bars, and take on other tasks, Landgrave said.
The park sees as many as 3,000 visitors in a day — the peak was 8,500 — though opening weekend tends to be slower because school is still in session. With good weather predictions for the holiday weekend, Landgrave said the crowds could be strong.
“All the pools are filled, treated and in great shape,” he said. “We’re ready to go.”