History and Facts of the Chicago River

History and Facts of the Chicago River
The Chicago River flows for 156 miles starting at Lake Michigan. It meanders through downtown Chicago on its way to the Mississippi River. To this day, the river plays an important role in the city's commerce.


The river's name comes from the word "Chicagoua." The name refers to the wild garlic that grew on its banks.


The French were the first Europeans to settle along the river. But by 1702, raids by Native Americans forced most of the population to move.


The Chicago Treaty of 1833 forced the Native Americans to move far away. This event opened the area to settlers who recognized the value of the river for transporting commercial and agricultural goods.

Flow Reversal

To prevent pollution and sewage from backing up into the city's water supply, a canal was built in the early 1900s to reverse the flow of the river. The river used to flow into Lake Michigan, but the canal drew water away from the lake, causing the river to flow towards the Mississippi River.

Fun Fact

For more than 40 years, the Chicago River has been dyed green every year to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Visitors can see the green water from Michigan Avenue in the downtown area.

Article Written By Nancy Wagner

Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.

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