Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Interpretive Digital Essay : Water in Chicago
Essay: People and the Port
Photo Essays:
Solitary Lives
City of Bridges
Chicago Harbors
Essay: Using the Chicago River
Photo Essays:
Goose Island
Indiana Dunes
Essay: Sanitation in Chicago
Photo Essays:
The Sanitary and Ship Canal
Water-Related Epidemics
Essay: Water and Urban Life
Photo Essays:
Houses and Water
Shoreline Development
Growing Up Along Water
Chicago’s Harbors: From the Chicago to the Calumet Rivers

After the opening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848, the Chicago River became a busy port connecting the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River. In the rush to attribute the economic success of nineteenth-century Chicago solely to the railroads, the river is often overlooked. Railroads were certainly key, but Chicago grew as a transshipment point, and its harbor was one of the busiest in the U.S. by the end of the Civil War in 1865. Cargo traffic on the Chicago River peaked in 1889, just as the Calumet Harbor took off. By 1906, the volume of Calumet Harbor traffic exceeded that handled in the rest of the Chicago region. With the expansion of the Cal-Sag Channel after 1955 and the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, the Calumet Harbor became the dominant regional port.

Photo Essay Sections:

Chicago River as harbor
calumet harbor