Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Chicago River

The Chicago River is a river that runs 156 miles and flows through Chicago, including Downtown Chicago, also known as the Chicago Loop. Though not especially long, the river is notable for the 19th century civil engineering feats that directed its flow south, away from Lake Michigan, into which it previously emptied, and towards the Mississippi River basin. This was done for reasons of sanitation. The river is also noted for the local custom of dyeing it green on St. Patrick's Day.

Originally, the river flowed into Lake Michigan. As Chicago grew, this allowed sewage and other pollution into the clean-water source for the city. This contributed to several public health problems, including some problems with typhoid fever. Starting in the 1850s, much of the flow was diverted across the Chicago Portage into the Illinois and Michigan Canal. In 1900, the Sanitary District of Chicago, then headed by Rudolph Hering, completely reversed the flow of the river using a series of canal locks, and caused the river to flow into the newly completed Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

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