Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Neighborhoods
  3. Places & Faces

Transforming the Chicago River

See also

If Chicagoans expected to realize their dreams of greatness for Chicago, changing the troublesome Chicago River became a necessity. Sand bars created numerous problems for shipping. The slow-moving river, contaminated with sewage from an ever increasing population, threatened the fresh water supply of Lake Michigan. Cholera, malaria and typhoid epidemics, caused by polluted, infested water threatened the lives of Chicagoans. http://www.chicagohistory.org

Beginning in 1816, engineering efforts improved the Chicago River. Channels were cut through the sandbars to encourage navigation. The U.S. Congress allocated $25,000 to improve the harbor, and through the engineering efforts of Major George Bender, commander of Fort Dearborn, this work began. The improvement was completed by James Allen, who succeeded the major, and it enabled the Illinois, a 100-short ton schooner, to sail to Wolf Point and dock at Newberry and Dole’s wharf. Three years later, piers were extended which facilitated the unloading of cargo.

By 1848, The Illinois and Michigan Canal was completed. It linked the Chicago, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers with Lake Michigan, New York City and the Atlantic Ocean. It became the only waterway linking the East Coast to the Gulf of Mexico. It was the last grant canal funded by the government. Shipments of people and goods on the canal continued for almost 60 years. http://www.dur.illinois.gov

Early attempts were made to reverse the Chicago River. In 1871, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was deepened. It was believed that this would change the course of the river, but this attempt was successful for only one season. Finally, in 1900, the Sanitary District of Chicago successfully reversed the river’s course in the Main Stem and South Branch. Under the direction of William Boldenweck, the district used a series of canal locks and caused it to flow into the Sanitary and Ship Canal. To be continued…

Advertisement

Life

  • Randy Travis
    Randy Travis returns with 'Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am' in August
    Today's Buzz
  • Alternative medicine
    Alternative medicine: Remedies to make the bugs in your body go away for good
    Camera
    7 Photos
  • Beach body
    Fitness: Earn your beach body badge with bootcamp classes
    Camera
    10 Photos
  • Back to school
    These 10 items are sure winners on your back-to-school shopping trip
    Camera
    12 Photos
  • Izabel Goulart
    Izabel Goulart walks the runway with Studio F at Colombia Moda
    Camera
    19 Photos
  • Ombre' technique
    Go for the gusto: What ombre' technique are you?
    Camera
    5 Photos

Related Videos:

  • Mississippi River images
    <div class="video-info" data-id="517367515" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=517367515&autoStart=true"></div>
  • Little Jimmy Dickens
    <div class="video-info" data-id="517891934" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=517891934&autoStart=true"></div>
  • San Diego Comic-Con 2014 DeviantArt schedule and mega meet up
    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/oOhjTBpxT60?rel=0?rel=0&amp;VQ=HD720&amp;allowfullscreen=true&amp;autoplay=1"></iframe>