Friday, October 17, 2008


The Chicago River is known for little among the great rivers of the world, but it is known for how engineers reversed its flow. The river once flowed into Lake Michigan, but because it was Chicago's main sewer system for many years, engineers reverse the flow so that it would head toward the Mississippi instead of the Lake. Reversing the flow required some changes. One change was where the mouth would be--a few blocks north. Another change was to raise the level of the river at its mouth so that it would flow inland. This wasn't too hard because the river barely flowed at all. A lock was built and still maintained just south of Navy Pier.

Speakeasy was ready to head to the yacht yard for the winter. Unlike previous seasons when Speakeasy went south with the migrating fowl, this season she would head inland on the Chicago River. The River goes through the center of Chicago, which has many heavily traveled streets that have bridges that cross the river. One of the bridges is an Interstate Highway. Twice each week, these bridges are raised to allow masted boats to pass. On one of these days, a beautiful Saturday, we boarded the Monroe Harbor tender for the last time this year, pulled the bridle from the mooring can, and motored to Columbia Yacht Club to pick up a crew.

Of our nine crew, only Susan had ever made this trip. The first stop was the Chicago Harbor Lock where we would enter about 4 feet lower than we would exit. Being rookies, we got to the lock in plenty of time to wait for other boats to catch up. Once through the lock, we waited for the first bridge to raise. The bridgeman waited while laggards came through the lock. This would be the first of 21 bridges we would pass through. There are 38 bridges on the River. The trip would take about 5 hours to go about 40 blocks.
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