Chicago River

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The Chicago River is a river that runs 156 miles (251 km)[1] and flows through Chicago, including Downtown Chicago, also known as the Chicago Loop. Though not especially long, the river is notable for being the reason why Chicago became an important location, as the link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley waterways. In the 19th century through civil engineering the flow of the river was reversed to head toward the Mississippi River basin, away from Lake Michigan, into which it previously emptied. 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.

The river is memorialized, in part, by two horizontal blue stripes on the Municipal Flag of Chicago.[2] The river also serves as inspiration for one of Chicago's ubiquitous symbols: a three-branched, Y-shaped symbol (called, the municipal device) is found on many buildings and other structures throughout Chicago; it represents the three branches of the Chicago River.[3] [4]



Originally, the river flowed into Lake Michigan. Its course jogged southward from the present river to avoid a baymouth bar, entering the lake at about the level of present day Madison Street.[5] Today, the Main Stem of the Chicago River flows due west from Lake Michigan, past the Wrigley Building and the Merchandise Mart to Kinzie Street, where it meets the North Branch and South Branch of the river at Wolf Point.

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