Alright, I have always been a history buff, but when it comes to things I like, I go a little nuts.
I have been doing research on the the altered flow of the Des Plaines River since I found out about it years ago.
searches, and a few other items I was able to find, but pickings were slim, until I sent "Dale Bowman"
my fishing report this past week, a gentleman named "Mike Kane"
posted a response. The information provided from just this one link has had me reading for hours and hours.
I will do my best to shorten the story, "as I see it
" for your reading pleasure.
Here it goes...
For Direct Content, Click Here.
A gentleman named "Philip E. Vierling"
published a number of volumes on this subject, along with a great deal of others. Printing and postage costs out of his own pocket. That right there says something! More on Mr. Vierling later...
After reading most of his library, I decided to give him a call. "That's how I do it
The thing that interested me most was the diversion of the river itself.
I would imagine that most people have not a clue this actually ever happened. I was one of these people.
I will post images from his library with "my" opinions attached.
Sorry in advance for some of the image quality. Some of these maps are dated back to 1822.
"All of this information is on the mid to southern stretches of the Des Plaines River, and are my views from Mr. Vierlings works".
This image is of Prescott's Island in Lyons, IL, just before the river makes it's westerly turn.
Both, 47th Street and the Santa Fe Railroad, both cross where the island was.
Satellite image of present location.
Another image of the south point of Prescott's Island
The river was diverted around this area with levees "1893" built on both sides of the river to prevent water to flow back into the lake via Mud Lake.
How things looked then. Water/marsh covered a pretty good area, both north and south of where I-55 now is.
This image you can see the levees on both sides of the river, also Odgen Dam on the right side of this image, "Another long story" As well as the rivers natural flow.
This map give you an idea of the size of this project. The levees extended 1400' north of the Santa Fe Railroad bridge, along with the Odgen Dam, which is now Harlem Ave.
Mud Lake is the area west of present day Harlem Avenue at 48th Street. It once extended as far east as 31th and Albany.
"It's deepest waters were at west end of the lake (near what today is Harlem Avenue), reaching 16.5' deep, but these depths rapidly shallowed eastward to about 7' deep at what today is Sayre Avenue (7000 west) and continued thus upstream."
Map of the area in 1865, "The year President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, to give you the time frame." Construction of the I&M Canal was finished in 1848.
The Levey system, mapped in 1905. If I have it right, Levees extended as far as 1st. Avenue.
Portage area in 1938.
Most the area was wet in 1874.
Legend for map below.
And now for the good stuff. Superimposed images of maps drafted in 1821 and 1883 by "John Wall-1821" and "W.L.Marshall-1883"
The top right of the map is 48th and Harlem. "Odgen Ditch" and runs down just before Willow Springs Rd.
Picking up just downstream.
Present day "Goose lake" is not part of the river in my eye, but a lake just north that has a small finger connecting the two. By this 1883 map, it shows the true Goose Lake to actually be part if the river itself. Present day Goose Lake, marked as "Marsh" is this map.
The confluence is just below that last image.
So what does all this mean?!
Almost the entire stretch from the Santa Fe Railroad Bridge, to it's confluence has been altered. While some of the rivers original banks remain intact, 97% of it has been changed.
Some original shores are now in the middle of the Sanitary Shipping Canal, and others are in the middle of the new flow, it is still possible to see it's original form.
If you ever fished the Willow Springs Rd. area, it seems the north bank has remained intact.
I am not so much reading type, so when I decided to give Mr. Vierling a call, I had a mess of questions to ask.
From my 45 minute phone conversation with this man I will say... WOW! First of all, he was nice enough to take a call from a complete stranger, and then was nice enough to answer all my questions with the utmost detail.
Nearing the end of our phone conversation, I ask him... Mr. Vierling... How much time do you have invested in this project? He then took a breath and said... This is what keeps me alive.
Those few words spoke volumes! An 80 year old man, who loves his typewriter, as he put it. Just imagine if Mr. Vierling had a blog... Yeah, It would blow anything I have ever written completely out of the water!
My hat is off to Mr. Vierling for his effort, and his drive to complete his work.
With that, I close my exploration of the diversion of the Des Plaines River. I now have Mr. Vierlings' phone number saved.