When I was growing up in Chicago, the River was something to joke about. As with most bodies of water near cities, especially those whose growth was rapid, water is often seen as a place to dump waste. Out of sight, out of mind, and someone else’s problem. Chicago was one of those cities, with one difference. Around the turn of the 19th Century the value of Lake Michigan as a clean source of drinking water became a matter of public concern after several typhoid outbreaks. The solution was to reverse the flow of the Chicago River by building the Ship and Sanitary Canal. The Lake was now protected while the waste went down the River, much to the complaints of all the downstream communities.
Thanks to the River Walk development project, it’s now a different story. As an aside, my spouse Joan was Chair of the Union League Club of Chicago sub-committee on the River Walk, and directed the Club’s support of this Civic project.
Today there is a River Walk from the Lakefront to State Street, and a project to extend it even further west. It’s also one of the major attractions for recreation and tourism with architectural cruises, kayak rentals, and boating — yes, fishing!