Chicago River sites
The Chicago River is full of historic and otherwise noteworthy points. You just need to know where to look for them.
WILSON AVENUE BRIDGE
The riverfront walkway ends at Montrose Street and picks up at Lawrence Avenue because homeowners have frontage rights (and believe it or not, you’re not part of the view they covet). But from this bridge, you get breathtaking views of Ravenswood Manor homes, docks and tree-lined properties from both sides of the bridge. Stroll down side streets—including Blago’s block on Sunnyside Avenue—for closer access at dead ends.
RICHARD CLARK PARK
In addition to soccer fields and wooded bike trails, this 10-acre park—located on the former Riverview Amusement Park site—also features a canoe and kayak launch. Chicago River Canoe & Kayak (3400 N Rockwell Ave, 773-252-3307) offers rentals, cardio kayak classes, moonlight dinner paddles and more.
The new Lincoln Park megastore (1550 N Kingsbury St, 312-587-0648, wholefoodsmarket.com) features two floors of outdoor riverview seating; a riverfront walkway that Mayor Daley hopes to connect into a continuous path leading downtown; and a kayak dock in case you’d like to pick up your groceries by boat, nourish yourself mid-paddle at one of seven in-store food counters, or toast your athleticism at the beer, wine and cheese bars.
Just last summer, taking a walk along the downtown portion of the river was an exercise in frustration: You had to travel up and down a staircase almost every block. No more—18-foot-wide paths under bridges make the walk continuous along Wacker Drive from Lake Shore Drive to Wabash Avenue. (Points west and on the north riverbank, however, are still accessible by staircase only.) The five-story McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum in the Michigan Avenue Bridge tower doubles as the Riverwalk Information Center.
FIRST ANNUAL TASTE OF THE RIVERWALK
That’s a taste of the Riverwalk, mind you—not the river itself. From Friday 19 through Sunday 21, alfresco restaurants from LSD to Franklin Street offer discounted small plates, music and special programming alongside summer-long attractions including architectural boat tours and the Women-Eye shop, which showcases crafts by disabled and paroled female entrepreneurs.
PING TOM MEMORIAL PARK
In the aftermath of 1960s Dan Ryan Expressway construction, Chinatown residents went parkless for 30 years, until businessman/civic leader Ping Tom urged the city to rehab this abandoned riverfront rail yard in 1998. Now the park boasts a pagoda-style pavilion, gardens, a playground, water-taxi service and an annual Dragon Boat Race Festival for Literacy in July.
CERMAK ROAD BRIDGE
The only surviving Chicago example of the rolling lift-type bridge, it dates back to 1906 and opens by rolling up a curved track on a rack-and-pinion system (like a rocking chair), rather than from a fixed-hinge point. In 1997, it was dismantled and rebuilt on elevated piers to minimize required openings.
CANAL ORIGINS PARK
Bubbly Creek is no longer an animal carcass dump, but some remaining slaughterhouse-related matter still causes little bubbles to pop up on the surface. It doesn’t sound like a natural place to sunbathe and picnic, but in fact the park at the juncture of Bubbly Creek and the Sanitary and Ship Canal features paths, an overlook, native plantings and an entrance walkway designed to look like a canal channel.