Guest Author - Pam Cartwright
If you happen to find yourself near St. Joseph, Michigan, take a side trip to the Silver Beach area. There, right along Lake Michigan, you will find Silver Beach Park. The park is located at 101 Broad Street, St Joseph. The entry fee is under ten dollars per day per vehicle for non-Berrien County residents. There is plenty of parking, lots of picnic tables, clean restrooms and even a large open-air pavilion you can reserve for a fee for family functions. It is such a lovely area, you will be happy with the time spent there.
Where the St. Joseph River empties into Lake Michigan is the town of St. Joseph, Michigan, locally referred to as St. Joe. It has grown from a settlement based on river commerce into a place that lures travelers, especially families, from all over. The early settlers traded with the Indian tribes of the area, most of them from the Potawatomi and Miami Indians. You can find lots of reference to both tribes at many local establishments. The Silver Beach area is the main attraction, although the entire area has a lot to offer. In the 1920s, the Silver Beach area was one of the hottest places in Southwest Michigan. It was the location of the Silver Beach Amusement Park. There were roller coasters, game tents, a dance pavilion and even a bowling alley. Although the amusement park was razed, there is still plenty to do there.
The beach is located below the bluff at St. Joe and is one of the most popular family beaches in Michigan. It features a long, beautiful sandy beach with brightly painted playground structures for the kids. There are lifeguards during the summer months. Swimming at other times is at your own risk. If you like beach volleyball, you will like Silver Beach. There is almost always a volleyball game going on. Since the people who live in Michigan are naturally friendly people, ask if you can join. You will probably get a yes. The beach is also a wonderful place to just take a stroll. It is long, wide and unbelievably level so it makes walking a little easier. The evening skies from this vantage point can be breathtaking. Make sure you take your camera.
Right next to the beach is a long concrete pier that you can stroll leisurely along. Or, if you are into fishing, you can fish right off the pier. You might get lucky and catch one of the numerous types of fish that live in Lake Michigan, like salmon, trout, catfish and perch. But, be prepared. The fishing rules in Michigan are a little more complex than you might be familiar with. (Dedication to conservation is a big issue in Michigan.) There are several fishing licenses to choose from. You can purchase a daily restricted license or an all-species license. Check with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for current rules and prices. The South Pier is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers and does not have lifeguards or buoys. So, be cautious at all times. The current and wind can be dangerous in adverse weather conditions. Diving from the pier is extremely dangerous and should never be attempted. The lighthouse at the end of the pier is not open to the public, but is a picturesque backdrop for some good photography, especially at dusk.
The Venetian Festival is a summertime treat that takes place right in Silver Beach Park. There are a variety of activities - from rock bands to street vendors. The amusement area is set up on the same spot where the original amusement park stood. If you happen to be in the area in July, make sure you visit this festival. It will be easy to get to. St. Joseph is located around the bend of the lake east of Chicago and southwest of across the state from Detroit. So, wherever you are coming from, it will be easy access.