This little beach is one of Duluth’s finest attractions, drawing in tourists throughout every season. Located on Lake Superior, Park Point stretches over seven miles, all open to the public. If you’re not into getting wet in the big lake, there are plenty of other things to do while strolling the beach. Cast rocks into the water, watch the waves crash on the sand, or just enjoy the pure beauty Duluth’s finest beach has to offer. Maybe even make it for sunrise to catch one of the most gorgeous you will ever witness.
About 3.3 Miles from the Lift bridge is a popular summer spot for locals and tourists. Here you have a beach house with bathrooms and showers to rinse off in. There is also a large field for games and a volleyball court. On the Lakeside you will find a small section of lifeguarded beach which is manned during the summer months.
Just past the beach house is the Sky Harbor Airport, a base for both land and seaplanes. The last 2 miles of land is an old-growth pine forest where you can go for a hike.
History of the Park Point
Set between two sides of the water, Park Point alongside the smaller Wisconsin Point makes it the world’s largest freshwater sandbar. In 1679 Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, first visited the Ojibway community of Onigamiinsing – the “Little Portage” which is another name for Duluth. By 1852 George Stuntz had established three buildings for a trading post and living space.
One year after the La Pointe Treaty of 1854 gave up Ojibway land for the new city. Robert Jefferson then built a two-story house on the point. This became a place for local politics, culture, and a meeting and voting place. It also became the living place of Judge John Carey and Thomas Preston Foster. If you didn’t know Judge John Carey and Thomas Preston Foster started Duluth’s first newspaper, The Minnesotan, in 1869.
By 1871 Duluth dug out the ship canal turning the peninsula into an island separating the point from Canal Park. Park Point reunited with the mainland in 1905 after the Aerial Bridge was built. The bridge was first as a swing bridge which was later changed to the lift bridge. The Ariel Bridge brought major changes to park point as it was now easier to access.
White City Amusement Park
Attempting to take advantage of the points’ popularity in 1906 members of the Duluth Retail Merchants, Real Estate Exchange, and the Duluth Commercial Club Established the Duluth Amusement Company. Their goal was to build an amusement park on the point modeled after Chicago’s White City Amusement Park. The company included eighteen-year-old O. C. Hartman, a principal of the Interstate Traction Company, which owned the streetcar line on Minnesota Point. They planned to build the amusement park on Hartman’s land where the old pavilion would be retained and painted white like everything else. White City opened on June 30, 1906, and featured a Mystic River Boat ride. It also had a Merry-go-round, a toboggan waterslide, a miniature railroad. They later added a Ferris Wheel, a corral of deer, an automated baseball game, and a roller skating rink. Unable to pay debts the Duluth Amusement Company closed the amusement park in 1909.
In March of 1937 construction started on the Bathhouse and was later finished in June of 1939 two years later. Located on a ridge above the sandy beach the Bathhouse was made of Cedar timber to resemble a Nordic design. The Bathhouse was said to have been able to accommodate two thousand people at once. A fee of 15 cents could get you a basket for your belongings, a towel, and access to the dressing and bath facility. In 1943 a section of the bathhouse was completely remodeled which added a new entrance, making a large room available for picnics and activities.
The site of the Amusement park has since been redeveloped with a baseball diamond, soccer and rugby pitches volleyball courts, playgrounds, and pavilions. The old Bathhouse has since become the beach house with outdoor showers, bathrooms, and seating located inside that you can access when the building is open.
Franklin Square Beach
There are not many sandy beaches along the North Shore of Lake Superior. In fact, there are only a few. One of them with beautiful fine-grained sand is on a stretch of beach within walking distance from Canal Park in Duluth. It is known as the Franklin Square/12th Street Beach and it is a perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon. Tree and shrub protection from the busy streets make it a peaceful and an incredibly enjoyable spot to visit. And, the beach provides respite to many travelers (especially those with kiddos) who need a break before traveling up the shore from the south.
There are many tools you can utilize when planning your day trip to Park Point. If you are ever curious whether or not a lifeguard is on duty you can check the Park Point Beach website and take a look at the beach cam. You will also find information on water conditions such as Rip currents, bacteria warnings, wind speed, and wave height. If you would like to avoid being “Bridged” as the locals would say, you may want to check the Aerial Lift Bridge Departure and Arrival Schedule to see when the lift bridge will be going up.
After Crossing the lift bridge just before the first parking lot you will see a LED screen with a flag next to it. The flag will either be green, yellow, or red. You will find these flags at four stations along the park point beach.
The swim hazard risk data is calculated based on the wind speed, wave heights, and direction. Note that rip currents have been reported on green (low risk) and yellow (moderate risk) days. If rip currents are reported, the risk is automatically upgraded to RED (High Risk). Park Point also has a flag-based warning system, with green, yellow, or red flags flying at four locations along Park Point, reflecting the rip current risk for the day.
Rip currents are powerful channels of water moving away from shore. Unaware swimmers can find themselves being pulled out into the lake. Each year, numerous deaths across the Great Lakes are attributed to rip currents.