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Cal-Sag Channel

The Cal-Sag Channel is a manmade waterway constructed to connect the Little Calumet River with the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Its name is shortened from the Calumet-Saganashkee Channel, which comes from the Saganashkee Slough at its western end.

Shoreline of the Cal-Sag Channel
Photo by Elaine C. Shigley

In 1911, the Metropolitan Sewage District of Chicago broke ground for the Cal-Sag Channel. It opened in 1922, and it reversed the flow of the Calumet River. It carried commercial traffic and provided an outlet for treated sewage. By 1935, its value heightened when Lake Calumet Harbor supported regular overseas shipping. In 1946, the Cal-Sag Project, designed to increase barge traffic between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River, multiplied its significance. The channel was further improved when the Port of Chicago opened in 1958.

The Cal-Sag Channel follows a 16-mile, westerly course past Saganashkee Slough to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. It conducts waste water from southern Cook County and the Chicago Deep Tunnel Project. The channel flows through Palos Hills Forest Preserves and parklands operated by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. In 1959, it was the rowing route for the Pan American Games. It’s also used by local boating enthusiasts.

Lake Katherine, part of the Cal-Sag System, is a lake that was turned into a system that filters and aerates water. It uses waterfalls and natural processes before passing the restored water over a spillway into the Cal-Sag Channel. It’s also the site of a nature center and community complex.

The Cal-Sag Trail is a 30-mile route bordering the channel from the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to the Burnham Greenway in Downtown Chicago. The trail connects regional trails, parks, forest preserves, nature centers and marinas. It connects historical Big Steel communities and the Underground Railroad. It will reach its completed 32-mile course in 2014.

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