The following chronicle of my lake swimming this summer is intended as a source for reasonably current, and also retrospective, lake conditions. If you find this useful or interesting please let me know that I have an audience and should continue to update this diary regularly. --Barry Dayton

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Sunday, June 16, 7AM
Mike and I swam at Ohio Street. The beach and surrounding areas have been cleaned up for tourists over the last two years but parking is now more difficult than ever. There is no parking at the beach or even under Lake Shore drive. We did find a nice spot on Ohio Street at this hour, however. The water was fit only for a penguin but with short wet suits we were reasonably comfortable. The water was flat and reasonably clear with a small number of dead fish floating about 25 feet from the beach. We swam to the Chicago Ave. underpass and back and were not chilled. We guess the water temperature to be 58F.
Sunday, June 23, 7AM
Mike, Eric, Jackie and I swam again at Ohio Street. Contrary to Newspaper reports, the water did not feel any warmer than the week before, it felt about 60F to us. There was a deceptively strong south wind, the water was only slightly choppy but Mike and I, who swam to the rusty poles (about 100 yards past Chicago Ave) felt that it was a real struggle to swim back upwind. Of course we both blamed the wet suits for keeping us too high in the water and bouncing us about like a couple of corks.
Sunday, June 30, 7AM
Mike, Jackie, Jill and I swam at Ohio Street. The water was smooth but slightly murky. There were pockets of varying temperatures, but overall it was not bad. Mike and Jill did not wear wetsuits. I estimate an average temperature of 63F. We swam to the poles and back. A pleasant cooldown from yesterday's 1500.
Thursday, July 4, 7AM, Ohio Street
The 4th of July is the traditional start of the summer lake swim season. This is the day the wet suits go into storage and the real swimming begins. Mike and I met Jill and a friend at the lake, we also ran into Laurie, Bob and a number of their friends from the Near North Y. It was nice to see some real swimmers along with the triatheletes. The water was a pleasant 68F with moderate chop. The lake appeared dirtier than normal but from natural causes, not from the previous night's fireworks. To the poles and back and back to the car quickly since the air was still quite cool.
Sunday, July 7, 7AM, Ohio Street
With Jackie, Jill and Mike. Met Leo coming out, he said conditions were perfect. He was right. The lake was clear, flat and warm, 70F. It was like swimming in a pool except for no lines on the bottom and no chlorine smell. We went to the yellow line (just before the turn) and back. It doesn't get much better than this.
Wednesday, July 10, 6AM, Oakton Pool
Actually I am in Oakton pool most weekday mornings but this morning with 54F air, 77F water and only Wayne, Charley and Paula present, it was almost like being in the lake.
Saturday, July 13, 7AM Ohio Street
With Jackie and Mike. The water was just a tad cooler than last week but conditions were again near perfect. Sunny, clear and calm water, water temp about 69F. The triathalon course for tomorrow appeared to be set up, so we swam the course. There was plenty of room for the three of us but we were not sure we would want to be on the course with another 1000 swimmers. By the time we finished a noticable chop had developed.
Saturday, July 20, 7AM Ohio Street
What a difference a week makes. We knew the perfect conditions would not last, but this was a shock. With lots of rain during the week and a north wind we had a real high tide. The water covered half the beach, it was up to the lifeguard chair. Waves were breaking over the wall. The waves averaged 2 feet with the occasional 3 foot breaking wave and the water temperature had dropped to about 60F, somewhat unusual for a north wind. It was quite intimidating. Jackie, with a wet suit waded in shoulder high and decided that was enough. Mike and I, without wet suits at this time of year, had to be macho so we swam out about 250 yards and back. I was fine in the water but even this short swim left me shivering when I got out.
Saturday, July 27, 7AM Ohio Street
Today my daughter Tanya accompanied me. The water was back to 68F with partly sunny skies and a mild chop. The water level is still unusually high. We ran into various patches of seaweed. Tanya, who lives on the east coast and usually swims in salt water appreciated the fresh lake water and stopped frequently to admire the Chicago skyline from the perspective of the lake. We made it to the poles and back.
Sunday, July 28, 7AM, North Avenue Chess Pavilion
It was raining when Mike and I left Park Ridge and it was a toss-up whether to attempt a swim or to watch the coverage of the Olympic marathon. We decided to try North Ave because of the more convenient parking on Sunday morning. By the time we arrived the rain had subsided to a drizzle and we had the parking lot mostly to ourselves. If you swim here you should bring some quarters for the meters and I don't recommend leaving personal belongings (shoes, towels etc) unguarded by the water. The water is usually a bit colder here than Ohio Street and today was no exception, I estimate 66F today. There was moderate to heavy chop, but no real waves. We swam to Oak Street Beach and back. We were glad we chose to swim.
August 14,15,16,17 Harris Bay, Lake George, NY
Lake George is a big lake but it is not Lake Michigan. Especially here in Harris Bay the water is warm and flat and not very challenging. However there is no protection from the boats that go whizzing by so during the day swimming in this lake is like crawling across the Kennedy Expressway. But at my usual 7AM time I mostly meet only a few fishermen. I averaged about 1.5 miles each day.
Wednesday, August 21, 8 AM Evanston
Back in Lake Michigan at our suburban location with Jackie. The water temperature is being advertised at 73 but in this unprotected site it is usually colder and today was no exception. The surface water was about 69F but it was much colder (about 63F) under the surface. Even while swimming this difference was obvious each stroke when our hand reached the lowest depth. The water was smooth and clear but there was some fog in the air, we could almost see farther under water. The wall that is our usual destination was not completely visible. We went for a relatively short swim as I didn't want to lose sight of Jackie in the fog (which has happened at this location before).
Saturday, August 24, 7:30 AM Evanston
The conditions were almost completely opposite from Wednesday. The water was warm (about 73F) but very wavy and murky. Waves were slightly in excess of 1 foot. But the air was very clear. The wall that was almost invisible Wednesday now looked very close. Even the horizon appeared to be but a short 30 minute swim. The going was not so easy but I did make it to the wall (but no flip turn in these conditions) and back. Being alone and in no particular hurry I stayed on the beach for a while to enjoy the wonderful weather and marvel at the fact that no one else seemed to care.
Sunday, August 25, 7AM, Ohio Street.
Jackie and I guessed that the air and water show and convention crowds would not be up yet and we were partly right. We were lucky to get our favorite parking spot at the end of Ohio Street but the pedestrian underpass was locked so we had to go around. There was an unusual amount of activity near the beach--city workers, cyclists, joggers, and skaters. Even a few swimmers. The lake was flat and a bit cooler, I'd say 69F. Compared to yesterday I felt very fast. I swam to the yellow line by the turn and back. On the way back I noticed a woman behind me whom I had not seen swimming the other way, apparently she came from beyond the turn. When she got within 30 feet of the Ohio Street beach she made a U-turn without breaking stroke and swam back toward where she had come.
Tuesday, August 27, Evanston, 9:00 AM
This is the roughest water yet. Waves in excess of two feet, but warm water. The problem is visibility, it's hard to see objects in the water more than 2 waves ahead. Jackie stopped to chat with an older woman who was bodysurfing and we soon lost track of her. Spending part of our time looking for her, as well as fighting the waves, we did not make good time. Mike had a time constraint so I suggested turning around halfway. We soon found Jackie only a bit behind us, and far from being in trouble she was really enjoying the water. I stayed back with Jackie but then soon lost track of Mike. Of course we all ended safe at the beach a little bummed that we had not swum the whole distance.
Thursday, August 29, Evanston 9:30 AM
The waves are still present but less than one foot today, and the water is the warmest yet (76F). We swam to the wall (open turn) and back. Some people might not consider the conditions to be perfect because of the waves, but Jackie, Mike and I found the conditions to be more fun than perfect.
Tuesday, September 3, Evanston 10:00 AM
Gentle long rolling waves, the sort that makes one wish they had an air mattress to lie on and be rocked gently to sleep. I did manage to stay awake long enough to swim almost to the wall and back. About 5 meters from the wall the water was thick with seagull excrement and the principle of touching or flipping at the turn did not seem worth the smell. The water was in the seventies on the surface but there was water in the upper 60's not far below.
Wednesday, September 4, Ohio Street, 7:00 AM
Jennie Quill joined me today for a final tuneup to Big Shoulders. The water was perfectly flat and really 78F. Jennie literally swam circles around me but kept me swimming at my top speed. We got to Oak Street and Back. A good workout.
Friday, September 6, Evanston, 6:15 AM
Mike and I are in the water before sunrise, its the only time that will fit both our schedules today. The sky is light enough to see where we are going but we can still see the sliver of a moon which will disappear when it gets lighter. Although there is no wind in Park Ridge there is a stiff East wind here at the lake producing waves slightly in excess of 1 foot but more importantly, lots of chop. I meant this swim to be a cool down but between the chop and the uncomfortably hot water the going is tough and I'm pooped after our swim to the wall and back, slightly over a mile. This is perhaps one of the few times I'm sorry I came.
Sunday, September 9, Ohio Street, Big Shoulders 5k race, 8AM
The water is flat and 79F, perfect for the pool swimmers. All they needed to be completely at home was a black line on the bottom, lane lines, and maybe a couple of barrels of chlorine. All my lake training was for naught, the only thing to do was put my head down and swim as fast as I could. But the one thing I had not practiced the last few weeks was speed, I was ready for anything but this. But I got my usual 5th place anyway.
Sunday, September 29, Evanston, 11:30 AM
Haven't been to the lake for a while due to lack of motivation (post Big Shoulders burnout), job conflicts, but mostly due to the constant condition of large waves which seem prevelant in September. Today the winds were from the southwest and the lake was flat except for very small swells. The water was cloudy, however, and 65F which was quite comfortable for me in a short wet suit. Mike did not wear a wet suit and appeared comfortable even though he had misplaced his trusty neophrene cap. We swam to the wall and back.
Tuesday, October 1, Evanston, 10:AM
A bit of indian summer brought a perfect beach day, what luck that neither Mike or I had to work today. An opportunity for a rare October swim. From the beach there seemed to lazy 6 inch waves in spite of a southwest breeze. The water was about 63F at the beach, Mike still insisted on leaving his wet suit in the car, even though still missing his favorite cap. I was quite comfortable in my short wet suit. By the wall there was serious chop with 18 inch waves, but the wave action also made the water warmer, a very comfortable 67F for Mike. Coming back against the wind the waves seemed bigger, but in a fun rather than threatening way. However the view from the beach remained the same, relative calm. We both agreed that this was one of the all time great swims. The weather being so nice we stayed on the beach for another hour and even took another short swim, this time no wet suit for me and no cap at all for Mike. If this is it, a great end to the season.