MORGAN SHOALS

Surfrider Chicago made its first official recon in August of one of the city's great natural features: Morgan Shoals. "What's that?" you ask. You've seen it if you ever driven on Lake Shore Drive and seen THAT THING sticking out of the water at about 49th St… a boulder… a giant piling… waves crashing all around it as if it's some kind of reef. 

It is a reef—of the Great Lakes variety. A giant shelf of dolomite limestone, formed during the glacial carving of the region 300 million years ago, sitting just offshore of "Pebbly Beach" (at 49th St), and varies from three to ten feet deep, host to an amazing ecology of fish, birds, plants and invertebrates. And that thing sticking out of the water? It's the giant boiler of the steamer Silver Spray; wrecked on the shoal 98 years ago. (the fish love it, of course) What does all of this mean? That Morgan Shoals, beyond being an extreme hazard to wayward boaters, is the unlikeliest of destinations: a Chicago snorkeling spot. On a clear, calm day (think: light, offshore conditions), it's as close to an Aruba-like dive as you'll ever find around here. 

On a fine, sunny August morn, Chapter activists Zoë M, Adrien S, and I, met with the unofficial steward of Morgan Shoals, Greg Lane, for an underwater tour. Greg is, among other things, an underwater archeologist, and swim/dives the shoals every day. Every day of the year, that is. (think about that) He'd like to see this incredible little spot declared an "aquatic sanctuary", and in so doing, be protected from the ravages and vicissitudes of lakeshore expansions and projects for a long time to come. 

Greg likes to turn people on to this spot, and conducts underwater tours regularly. He can be reached at greg@walkerwood.net 

Definitely one of the coolest things to do in an urban environment.