Chicago turns “the Stinky” into a watery urban playground
The evolution of the Chicago River from “the Stinky,” as it was once called, to the city’s second watery playground, has the makings of a rags-to-riches story. The river, like those in most American metropolises, long served as an industrial transport system. At the turn of the last century, it was re-engineered to flow backwards to prevent bacteria and pollutants from flowing into Lake Michigan. Margaret Frisbie, executive director of the environmental nonprofit Friends of the Chicago River, says it became “a back alleyway filled with sewage and trash.”
In the heat of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, even the flames, perhaps wary of its murky waters, jumped the river twice.
But this weekend, a striking new boathouse opens on the river’s banks. Designed by noted Chicago architect Jeanne Gang, the Clark Park Boathouse will help put more kayakers and canoers on the river that was paddled by early European explorers such as Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette.
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