CHICAGO - If Chicago's beaches look smaller to you this summer, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. The lake is at a record level. It is the first time it has been this high since the 1980s.
"It's terrible. Worse than ever," said beachgoer Iris Gonzalez.
Chicago beaches are a fraction of their former sandy-selves.
Montrose Beach is now home to a massive lagoon, covering the vast area where during a normal summer, beachgoers would throw footballs and Frisbees.
"This water that's right here in the middle, it's really annoying...and you know it's not that clean!" Gonzalez said.
12th Street Beach, just south of Adler Planetarium, is now just a thin sliver of sand.
Earlier this week at Ohio Street Beach. Caffe Oliva was flooded completely.
"We've been losing a lot of business. We were flooded the last couple of days. It took me about 5 hours on Monday to clean up the place and have it rolling for dinnertime," said Alejandro Fonsca of Caffe Oliva.
"The last time the lake levels were this high was in the mid-80s and so we're seeing lake levels, a lot of people who live in Chicago have never seen Lake Michigan this high before," said Joel Brammeier of Great Lake Alliance.
Brammeier says the rainy spring is mostly to blame, along with not as much lake water evaporating.
"When the water goes back down, you will see these extensive wide beaches that people remember from the late 1990s and early 2000s," he said.
While this summer's high water level does have to do with rain and lack of evaporation, Brammeier says those may not be the only factors.
"The fluctuations are happening less predictably. Right now, there's potential that's connected to long-term climate change and the fact is we don't know what's going to happen to the lake levels next year, or the year after that," he said.
The good news is that compared to other shoreline cities, Chicago is prepared for fluctuating lake levels, investing some $300 million dollars over the last two decades in hefty concrete barriers to fight erosion.
"I think here in Chicago, we're going to miss out on some of those great beaches that we had and we're going to have some inconveniences in terms of using the lakefront, but in the long run, Chicago is pretty well protected," Brammeier said.