Is the Calumet River Getting Its Chance?

The South Chicago Chamber of Commerce and the Great Cities Institute are in the midst of a revitalization plan along South Commercial Avenue in South Chicago.


South Chicago’s location in the City of Chicago.

South Chicago has experienced a lot of economic hardship since the closing of three steel mills and commercial disinvestment.

“We had theaters, dining, entertainment,” said Dan Lira, president of the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce. “When the steel mills closed, we lost all that. Now, we’re asking, how do we create the incentives to bring people out to South Chicago?”

The plan is giving South Chicago the opportunity to re-brand itself as the “heart and soul corridor,” which would be a hub of artistic spaces and public art installations.

More recently, the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Metropolitan Planning Council to stroll down the 92nd street bridge and identify areas that can be turned into recreation areas, or “pocket parks.” They are looking closely at the stretch of city-owned land near the 92nd Street Bridge and the area near Calumet Fisheries.


Calument Fisheries smokehouse with potential park space in the background. Image Courtesy of Trip Advisor

The hope is that added green space will not only create more recreation spark revitalization. “It plays a role in the whole revitalization,” Lira said. “It’s having access to the river. It’s beautification. Hopefully it can lead to tourists down the road.”

Have any thoughts?

-Brooke Ousterhout


1898: Theodore Dreiser Tells of the Chicago River


Steamboat, Price McKinney, grain ship, in the Chicago River at Madison Street, Nov 11, 1914. Chicago History Museum Collection

From the Chicago Tribune November 29, 1898 [Originally from the Metropolitan]

The smallest and busiest river in the world. Where do you think it is? Theodore Dreiser locates it in Chicago and has this to say about it: The first peculiarity of this little stream is that it is the smallest river doing the largest business in the world, or, in other words, the busiest river in the world. In the next place, it has the greatest depth for the narrowest width of any known river. In the third place, it has the largest number of bridges spanning it of any river of equal or greater length, barring the Mississippi – or a total of fifty-two bridges. All these are draw or swinging bridges and carry traffic of their own overhead almost as important as that which passes below. Next, this river has little or no current to speak of, and flows upward instead of down. Continue reading

Wild Urban Space: Interview with Dale Bowman

Last week, we turned the table on Sun-Times reporter, Dale Bowman, and interviewed him for Chicago River Stories. Dale is an honored outdoors columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and a seasoned fisherman. He moved to Chicago after college in the mid 80’s and quickly became an integral part of the fishing community. Dale is the producer of StrayCasts, a YouTube channel that streams live, 7-9pm on Wednesday nights, and is an overall cool guy to talk to.

“The River is the essence of wild, urban space”


Image courtesy of Heartland Outdoors

Dale described his very first experience fishing in Chicago. He had gotten a tip about a great fishing spot up near Howard and the North Branch and went to check it out. The dam was hard to get to; he had to bushwhack through brush and trees then scramble down a muddy Continue reading

El Tema Del Canal Coleteral Con Nancy Meza

LVEJO Nancy Meza

Imagen de Nancy Meza, Organizadora de Justicia Clímatica en LVEJO, en una junta.

Varias comunidades a través de Chicago han creado conciencia de diferentes injusticias ambientales que existen en sus comunidades.  La Villita, una comunidad en Chicago donde la mayoría de sus residentes son Mexicanxs o de descendencia Mexicanx, ha concentrado sus esfuerzos en educar a su comunidad sobre temas del medio ambiente Continue reading

Chicago’s Monumental Sewer system

In past blog posts you may have read about some of the pollution that affected Chicago’s waterways for our first hundred years or so as a city. Industries like the stockyards and distilleries were major contributors to the disease-ridden water, but so were everyday people. Garbage collection was only begun later in the century, so many people deposited their trash right on city streets. And with a booming human population, and a reliance on horses for transportation, natural waste was a major problem.


Chicago in 1812, the land is barely higher than the river/lake level

Chicago is rich with natural beauty, but elevation is not our strong suit. Natural waterways didn’t rush out to bigger bodies of water, preferring to meander down lazy streams or through marshy swampland. When much of the city was sold off to speculators in the first few real estate booms, many people had never seen the land. They built on the swamp anyway, and built raised sidewalks to keep people out of the mud on downtown strolls. A local joke spoke to the seriously muddy conditions, “…a passerby came upon a man whose head and shoulders protruded from the the muck in the middle of the street. ‘Can I help?’ asked the passerby. ‘No, thank you,’ replied the man. ‘I have a fine horse under me.'”

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Ice Skating in Chicago

Now that it’s spring, it’s finally starting to get warm outside. Despite the ever-present dread through April that we might still get hit with one last snowstorm, for the most part Chicagoans are developing their regular amnesia towards winter, ready for the warmth ahead.


Chicago isn’t exactly known for its skiing…

However, if I can jog your memory, just a couple of weeks ago we were at that point of winter where everyone was getting really tired of being stuck inside, having salty boot stains, and wearing long underwear and mittens. That’s the best time of the year to go ice skating. A winter activity is a great way to make the best of the season you’re given, and have fun outside when it seems like it’s been ages. Our geographical location is not blessed with natural mountain ranges, or even much elevation more than the Clark Street Moraine or Beverly’s “hills.” We get height on rooftops, we get skyline views from the lake, and instead of skiing we’ve got ice skating: the winter sport for flatlanders.

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