Water: The Quality Test
By Jerry Dennis
Is our Water Clean? What does “clean” mean? improving Water quality is a complex and urgent goal.
In this special report, Chicago WILDERNESS examines freshwater quality for people and nature.
In the eyes of most people, the best indicator of water quality is human health and prosperity. Historians have noted that the success of a civilization is always dependent upon its ability to satisfy the need for abundant, clean, safe water. It’s an ancient struggle. Remains of central water-supply and waste-water systems have been uncovered at the site of Nippur, a Babylonian community more than 5,000 years old. Sanskrit writings dating from 2000 B.C. describe how to disinfect water by boiling it in copper cauldrons, exposing it to the sun, filtering it through charcoal, and cooling it in earthen vessels.
In nature, water is never found in pure form. It is such an effective solvent that it pries apart the molecules of most other substances.
Four thousand years later, we continue to boil water to disinfect it, and our treatment plants—even the most advanced of them—expose contaminated water to the ultraviolet radiation and cool it to make it more palatable and less hospitable to bacteria. In our quest for pure water we continue to eliminate odors and unpleasant tastes with activated carbon filters, which are made from charcoal.
Photo, upper right: Peter Dring; Above: Lynda Wallis
In nature, of course, water is never found in pure form. It is such an effective solvent that it pries apart the molecules of most other substances, attaching their positive and negative ions to its own. This molecular trick is vital to the survival of living things, allowing us, for example, to absorb oxygen from the air in our lungs and nutrients from our food and transport both through our bloodstreams. But it also makes water subject to easy contamination. Every raindrop sponges gases and minerals from the air as it falls, and when it reaches the ground it absorbs a little of everything it touches—every leaf and particle of soil, every fragment of limestone, iron, and asphalt. As many unwary travelers have found to their dismay, water can be clear to the eye and still be poisonous. Or it can be muddy and harmless.
Mention contaminated water and many of us probably think first of pollution from pesticides and industrial chemicals, or from untreated sewage. But many other factors contribute to water problems, including stormwater and agricultural runoffs, erosion and sedimentation, changes in the levels of pH and dissolved oxygen, and others. Any of those factors, alone or in combination, can have lasting harmful impact on humans. And, of course, they also affect plant and wildlife communities. Nearly half the endangered and threatened plants and animals in the U.S. live in water at least part of their lives or depend heavily on aquatic foods for sustenance. Rapid urban development and its attendant consequences for river systems—siltation, damming, and chemical pollution—have been especially damaging to such endangered and threatened fish as the eastern sand darter, blacknose shiner, northern madtom, and most native freshwater mussels.
On the Chicago River
Illustration from Wilkinson, 1879
One bright morning last August, Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, invited me to join her in a canoe for the 7th annual Chicago River Flatwater Classic. I knew about the river, or thought I did—fouled by a century and a half of abuse, crammed with chemical wastes and sewage, assaulted by every human dream of control over nature, from channelization to dams to diversion.
The Chicago River is every year becoming more popular among canoeists, kayakers, anglers, and other recreational users.
But that morning as I walked across Clark Park toward the North Branch of the river, a young black-crowned night-heron—an Illinois endangered species—soared low across the water, reared up on its wings, and landed at the river’s edge 50 feet from me. The water was far from clear, but neither was it clogged with toilet paper and condoms, as I had feared it might be. It smelled, not unpleasantly, like freshly turned earth. On the opposite bank, two anglers sat on lawn chairs, their rods propped against forked sticks. As I watched, a rod tip dipped, and an angler jumped to it and pulled hard against a large fish. In moments he had it to the net, then on the bank, and a carp flashed golden in the sunlight.
At the park’s canoe landing I met Margaret and Kristie Willis, managing editor of the Friends’ newsletter The River Reporter, who made a seat of cushions in the middle of the canoe. We pushed off into slow current and joined a flotilla of canoes and kayaks paddled by an estimated 450 paddlers from throughout the Midwest. Some were there to race, the rest to paddle casually the 7.25 miles to Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown.
Fish photos: Dan Kirk
It was soon apparent that Margaret and Kristie are profoundly committed to the river. Margaret grew up canoeing with her father on Chicago-area rivers and lakes, and has watched many of those waters become healthier in the 25 years since the founding of Friends of the Chicago River. As we paddled and drifted, she pointed out that the Chicago River is every year becoming more popular among canoeists, kayakers, anglers, and other recreational users. She explained that the frothing and sudsy areas of turbulence we passed in several places at the river’s edge were not dreadful outpourings from industry, as I assumed, but aeration systems placed in the river by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) to boost the dissolved-oxygen content of the water. (This makes the water more hospitable to aquatic life and prevents unpleasant odors.) Townhouses at Kinzie Park, which I assumed were only the ordinary gentrification of a riverside neighborhood, Margaret identified as signs of economic health—indisputable evidence that river frontage is growing more desirable as the water becomes cleaner.
Photo at left: Jerry Goldner; Right: Lynda Wallis
I started seeing the river as Margaret and Kristie did: as an underappreciated asset. Migratory and resident birds thrive in the lush riparian zones along the river and its tributaries, and dozens of species of fish live in water that once supported little but sludge worms. Where the North Branch meets the Main Stem at the north end of the Loop, the river bursts with the vitality of a city at its best. There’s brisk traffic in pleasure boats, water taxis, barges, ferries, and large open-topped excursion boats crowded with craning tourists on “architecture tours.” And no wonder: Chicago’s most famous buildings look their best from the water, their towering mirrored walls shimmering with reflected waves and river colors. Here, where the earth-tinted North Branch meets the clear, blue Main Stem—Lake Michigan, funneled—the river is brilliant, fresh, vital, and inhabited by trout. Everyone in the canoes around us was suddenly grinning.
A few miles down the South Branch we pulled up to the docks at Ping Tom Park. Under awnings set up for the event, we gathered with other paddlers over music, food, and beverages to discuss the trip just finished and ideas for the future of the river. Later, on a bus chartered for the trip back to Clark Park, I fell into conversation with Bob Menard, a 52-year-old resident of McHenry County, and his daughter, Kristin, 21. Bob is a Chicago native who grew up near the river. “When I was a kid,” he said, “there was no pleasure-boating on the South Branch of the Chicago River. None. Nobody even thought of it.”
For Bob Menard and anyone else with a sense of history, most of the waterways in the greater Chicago area certainly seem improved. No longer is the Lake Michigan waterfront an offensive and debris-clogged breeder of typhoid and other diseases. The breathless (and premature) civic optimism that inspired downtown swimming marathons after the reversal of the Chicago River in 1900 has given way to a new, more cautious optimism that aims to make the river safe for swimming within our lifetimes. Anyone who remembers the North Branch of the Chicago River and the Little Calumet River as recently as 1977, when they supported only a few species of fish, or who has seen the improvements in water quality that began 30 years ago with the Clean Water Act and the first implementation of the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP), will almost certainly agree that the waters now are “not bad” or “better than they were.”
But is “better than they were” good enough? And how much better are they? More importantly, have they improved much at all? A recent report from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency gives failing grades to water quality in three tributaries of the North Branch of the Chicago River—the Middle Fork, West Fork, and Skokie River. Patricia Werner, Watershed Planner for the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission says, “Those rivers used to be rated as fair, but in the last few years they’ve been downgraded to poor.” How poor? They’ve fallen to the lowest category, “not supporting” of aquatic life and any recreation that involves contact with the water.
The degradation of those rivers and many others in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana—and, indeed, throughout the United States—is in large part a consequence of rapidly growing suburban development. From road salt running off highways to lawn fertilizers making their way down storm drains, our creeks, rivers, wetlands, and groundwater are at the receiving end of what we need to maintain our modern American lives. Ed Karecki, environmental contaminants biologist at the Chicago field office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, makes the point that industrial waste and dumping, which for many years was the most notorious point-source of water pollution, is so carefully regulated today that it is no longer the threat it once was. The biggest threats to aquatic ecosystems now,” he says, “are runoff from urban and suburban environments and chemical compounds (such as pharmaceuticals). All our vehicles dripping fluids, the pesticides and fertilizers we dump on our lawns, the ordinary runoff from parking lots and highways—those non-point sources are not subject to as much regulation, but they have a big impact. And antibiotics that enter our waterways—people flushing unused prescription drugs, for instance—cannot be removed in the treatment process,” Karecki adds. “If people could reduce those things alone it would make an enormous difference in the health of our waters.”
The Canaries in the River
One who probably agrees that “better” is not good enough is Roger Klocek, senior biologist at the Shedd Aquarium. Klocek is an expert on freshwater mussels, which have proven to be good “indicator species” of water quality.
“They don't tend to move around much,” Klocek says, “so their presence or absence from a particular portion of a river, stream, or lake gives a good long-term indication of the health of the body of water. Also, because their shells have visible growth rings, they can be analyzed for age, then backtracked to determine years in which they absorbed heavy-metal pollutants, for instance.”
The status of mussels in most places in North America suggests our waterways are in trouble. Nearly 72 percent of the 297 mussel species native to the continent are extinct or in danger of becoming extinct. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) reports that more than half of the 80 native species in Illinois are threatened, endangered, extirpated, or extinct.
"The first question everyone is going to ask is whether mussels are worth it. Whether they are or not, the question is, should we use our best indicator?”
The Des Plaines River system, which once supported at least 34 species, now has almost none. In 1900 the upper Illinois was home to 38 species, but after the reversal of the Chicago River sent floods of raw sewage and industrial waste down the river, their numbers plummeted until, by 1969, researchers failed to find a single mussel. Almost everywhere else in the Chicago Wilderness area, mussels are in decline.
Photo: John Quail/FOCR
Today, Klocek says, mussels in most area streams are threatened by streambank development, particularly sedimentation from careless road and construction projects. “I see really disturbing things,” he says. “In Long Run Creek [a small headwater stream near Lemont], we did some water sampling in a stretch where there was one nice house being built. The house was about ten feet above the level of the creek, and it had no barriers erected to prevent runoff. We sampled the bottom and found 22 inches of sediment covering the bottom. And, of course, no mussels there; they couldn’t survive it. Some thin-shelled species can climb to the top of loose sediment, but we found none. The plume of sediment from that single house extended downstream about 220 feet. Even a modest development could eliminate all the mussels from a large section of creek,” Klocek adds.
“We have laws to prevent that kind of siltation,” Klocek says. “Straw bales and silt fences are supposed to be put up at every new construction site. But not every homeowner knows about it. And they might have no idea how much damage is being done.”
The region’s mussels are also under attack from an unexpected threat: ammonia, which is found in varying levels in wastewater effluent. At an EPA-sponsored conference in 2006, ammonia was identified as contributing to the decline of many aquatic organisms.
“This is so controversial,” Klocek says. “But the evidence is good that juvenile and larval mussels are the best indicators of ammonia toxicity because they are ten times more sensitive than any other organisms and should therefore be used to set new water-quality standards. Today’s ammonia standards are too high. If EPA used mussels to determine new ammonia standards they would have to completely revamp their national water standards. It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade sewage treatment plants. The first question everyone is going to ask is whether mussels are worth it. Whether they are or not, the question is, should we use our best indicator?”
Growing Problems with Groundwater
In many places, the only source of water is underground. In fact, it’s been estimated that 98 percent of the world’s supply of liquid freshwater is beneath the surface. Despite the great reliance on Lake Michigan for Chicagoland’s drinking water, the ten counties in Illinois with the most private wells are all in the northern and northeastern part of the state. As we noted in the prior report on water supply (CW, Winter 2007), groundwater reserves in the Chicago Wilderness region have declined dramatically in the past century. Equally disturbing are the numbers of contaminated private and municipal wells. In the Chicago suburbs of Downers Grove and Lisle, for instance, hundreds of private wells were contaminated with chemical spills from nearby industries, forcing homeowners to connect to the Downers Grove public water supply. At least 100 wells in the Hillcrest subdivision in largely rural Wauconda was found to be contaminated with toxic chemicals that leached into groundwater from an old sand and gravel quarry that had been used as a landfill. In Lowell, Indiana, where excess natural fluoride was discovered in municipal wellwater, residents were forced to drink only bottled water or risk permanent brown mottling of their teeth. Radioactive tritium, known to cause cancer and birth defects, entered private wells near the Braidwood nuclear plant in Will County as the result of 22 leaks since 1996. A court injunction last May ordered Exelon Corporation to monitor area wells for contamination in the nearby village of Godley. When an additional 244 wells were tested, only one showed significant levels of tritium, but 16 were found to be contaminated with high levels of nitrates, which are byproducts of sewage and agricultural fertilizers and are especially hazardous to infants. Another 24 wells were contaminated with E. coli or coliform bacteria, both of which can indicate sewage leaking into groundwater. Until a permanent solution is found, the Braidwood Generating Plant is pumping tritium-tainted water from the ground and “recycling” it through the plant’s cooling system.
It’s been estimated that 98 percent of the world’s supply of liquid freshwater is beneath the surface.
Several years ago in Plainfield, which is one of Illinois’ fastest growing communities, community wells became contaminated with radium, a naturally occurring radioactive substance linked to bone cancer. In 2004, after spending $8 million to build water storage towers, pumping stations, and a 20-inch pipeline two miles to Bolingbrook, the community began purchasing water for its 20,000+ residents from the Illinois American Water Company, a private company that buys treated Lake Michigan water from Chicago and sells it to outlying communities.
Photos 1 and 3: Lake County Health Department; NukeWorker.com
Contamination of groundwater presents a variety of complex challenges not found on the surface. Groundwater usually flows slowly, depending upon its depth, its volume, the types of rocks and soils it flows through, and other factors. Water that falls as rain or snow and infiltrates a shallow aquifer can circulate back to the surface in a few years, but water in deep aquifers can be trapped between layers of impermeable rock or clay for thousands of years.
This glacially slow circulation means that groundwater cannot flush itself clean of impurities with anything like the rapidity of surface water. As a result, contaminants often become hundreds of times more concentrated than in a stream or lake. Because of water’s effectiveness in dissolving and absorbing other materials, it is often naturally rich in minerals such as iron and calcium. Unfortunately, it can be equally rich with inorganic ions of nitrate, chloride, and heavy metals; pesticides; and viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Some contaminants, such as barium, radium, chloride, and arsenic, occur naturally in soils. Others leach into aquifers from industrial sites, landfills, animal feedlots, agricultural fields, and septic tanks. One particularly insidious category of contaminants are volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are common components of gasoline, solvents, paints, cleaners, and degreasers. VOCs often infiltrate groundwater near commercial and industrial sites, fuel tanks such as those at gas stations, and landfills. Contamination can also occur when rapid groundwater withdrawal creates a “cone of depression” in the water table, triggering chemical reactions when sandstone and other underground mineral deposits are exposed to oxygen.
Photo: Lori Vallelunga
Getting rid of the contamination in groundwater can be extremely difficult and expensive. Sometimes the water can be pumped to the surface, treated, then pumped back underground. More often, because contaminants remain attached to soil particles, there is little choice but to abandon the aquifer and hope that natural biological, chemical, and physical processes will eventually cleanse it.
Another complication arises because groundwater and surface waters are usually not separate bodies. Streams are fed from springs and other groundwater outflows, while aquifers are continuously replenished by surface waters. Thus what’s good or bad for the surface is good or bad for the ground, and vice versa.
Wetlands tend to be the meeting place between surface and groundwater systems, and thus can suffer from the ill health of either. Biologists have been reminding us for years that the importance of wetlands cannot be overestimated. They perform such essential functions as recharging groundwater, filtering nonpoint-source runoffs, stabilizing shorelines, and controlling erosion. They’re also biologically critical, providing nursery areas for wildlife and aquatic life, and in many urban and suburban areas remain the only sizeable habitats for natural plant and animal communities. Although they account for less than 5 percent of the land surface of the United States, they are vital to more than a third of the nation’s threatened and endangered species. The many varieties of wetlands in the Chicago region—including sloughs, prairie potholes, bogs, fens, marshes, vernal pools, and wet meadows—are home to 860 native plant species and more than 100 species of birds (35 of which are absolutely dependent upon wetlands). These habitats are both biologically diverse and extremely vulnerable.
Progress Being Made
The good news is that virtually every problem confronting water resources in the Chicago Wilderness region is being corrected, monitored, studied, or otherwise addressed. Effective projects range from the five cascading waterfalls (known as Sidestream Elevated Pool Aeration stations) that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District operates in parks on the south side of Chicago to raise dissolved-oxygen content in the Cal-Sag Channel and the Little Calumet River, to a demonstration project to restore the Skokie River where it flows through the Chicago Botanic Garden. Perhaps most encouraging are the dozens of citizen watchdog groups working to protect and restore every major river system.
In McHenry County, three of northeast Illinois’ healthiest rivers—the Fox, Kishwaukee, and Nippersink Creek—have been monitored for a half-dozen years by volunteers and paid staff as part of the Sierra Club’s Water Sentinels Project. The group’s monthly monitoring of the three rivers, nine of their tributaries, and a lake supplements data collected by state agencies like the Illinois EPA and DNR, which have classified the rivers and streams as “Class A,” supporting diverse populations of fish, mussels, and aquatic insects.
Cindy Skrukrud, clean water advocate for the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter, began working on the Water Sentinels project in 2001. Skrukrud, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and lives in a house overlooking Nippersink Creek, says the project was intended to take a “snapshot” of three streams that have not yet been altered much by development. Her group hoped it would also raise awareness about the quality of the streams.
When the Water Sentinels’ monitoring project report was published in 2004 as “Time to Choose: The Future of McHenry County’s High Quality Streams,” it increased local awareness of the need to preserve the integrity of the streams. Residents were surprised to learn that both the Fox—which provides the primary water supply for the fast-growing communities of Elgin and Aurora—and the Kishwaukee met water quality standards that fell within the EPA’s definition of “pristine.” Nippersink Creek was of slightly lower quality, but still very good. A red flag was raised, however, regarding high levels of phosphates in waters adjacent to the outlets of wastewater treatment plants.
The Sierra Club and other organizations took the report to the Illinois Pollution Control Board and, with it and other data as ammunition, succeeded in getting an interim phosphate and nitrate standard established for new and expanded treatment plants. Previously, Illinois had no standards at all for nutrient discharges, despite their many harmful effects on aquatic systems. The interim standards will be of particular benefit to places like McHenry County, where development is certain to increase, and the number and capacity of treatment plants will expand to meet it.
“The streams we’ve been monitoring are on the cutting edge of sprawl,” says Skrukrud. “Now the future is a little brighter for them.”
A brighter future is also the aim of a study recently completed by Friends of the Chicago River. The study summarizes the progress made in cleaning up the Chicago River and its tributaries during the past 25 years and gives particular attention to what needs to be done during the next quarter-century. Policy director Todd Main says the first goal outlined in the study is to encourage the MWRD to complete the TARP reservoirs. Although the 109 miles of deep tunnels already in operation serve as a significant reservoir themselves, capturing about 85 percent of combined sewage overflows (CSOs) in a 375-square-mile area of Chicago and 51 suburbs, CSOs continue to flood area waterways with untreated or partially treated sewage. MWRD estimates that when Phase II of the $3.4 billion project is completed, the tunnels and its three reservoirs (O’Hare, Thornton, and McCook) will prevent 99 percent of CSOs.
Photo: Jerry Goldner
The study’s second goal, Main says, is to grapple with the problem of disinfecting effluent. Chicago is one of the only major cities in the country that does not disinfect most of its treated sewage. “If you look at E. coli numbers downstream from treatment plants,” says Main, “the numbers are off the charts.”
The third goal is controlling stormwater, such as the remaining 1 percent of CSOs. “Computer models predict that the Chicago area is unlikely to receive a greater volume of precipitation in coming years,” Main says, “but will probably see storms of greater intensity. Because TARP was designed in the 1960s, long before climate change was predicted, it may not be able to accommodate major storm events. CSOs are caused by too much water in the system,” he adds. “We’re urging Cook and Lake Counties to adopt a multiple-solution palette that includes green roofs, bioswales, downspout disconnections, rain gardens. We want to slow the velocity and volume of stormwater entering the system.”
Chicago is one of the only major cities in the country that does not disinfect most of its treated sewage.
Most of those goals are consistent with governmental initiatives to conserve and protect water resources, but Richard Lanyon, general superintendent of MWRD, says that disinfecting effluent is a more difficult problem. According to Lanyon, the district already complies with state standards for disinfection, and part of the year, at least, chlorinates at three treatment plants in northwest Cook County. After studying methods of disinfection, the district is investigating the possibility of using either ultraviolet radiation or ozone treatment in various plants (the study results are available online at mwrdgc.dst.il.us). Furthermore, he says, “The four plants that discharge to the Chicago Waterway System are not required to disinfect, and doing so would cost about $540 million in capital and over $20 million annually to operate and maintain. Those costs are significant and are not presently affordable given all our other priorities.”
Todd Main argues that disinfecting effluents and improving water quality in general would have economic benefits that offset its costs. Recreation on and along the Chicago River has grown steadily in recent years, and is sure to increase as the water becomes cleaner and safer. For their study, Friends documented more than 10,000 canoe and kayak trips on the Chicago River in 2005, a significant part of paddle-sports’ $7 million economic impact in northeast Illinois. Recreational fishing would have even greater benefits. “There are 720,000 anglers in the Chicago area,” according to Main. “Just those who fish the area rivers and streams spend $94 million a year in the four-county region for licenses, gear, transportation, lodging, and food. The fishing is getting better every year, and the spending is going up at the same time.” Finally, according to Main, the million birders in the metro area generate an industry worth $257 million per year, a figure that will surely increase if river corridors were made more attractive to birds and the humans who watch them.
Clean water and its recreational uses translate to increased property values, potentially the largest economic boon. “We looked at the property values of almost 9,000 properties in the city along the river,” says Main. “In the 1960s, property values declined the closer you got to the river. Now river-edge property is at a premium. We found it is increasing in value 3 percent faster than property away from the river.
“There is an economic impact here,” Main stresses. “The future strength of our economy is tied in with the environment. When you look at the factors that make a city dynamic, the top three that people are looking for are cost of living, work force, and quality of life. When you make investments in quality of life, it reaps benefits. That’s a big reason that Chicago led the nation in 2005 in corporate relocations. The clean river equals a strong economy.”
Of course strong economies depend not only on human activities, but on healthy and diverse communities of plants and animals. Wild creatures are often at greater risk than humans from degraded environments because they are in constant contact with them. The continuing decline of frog and salamander populations and the increasing numbers of abnormalities among them are almost certainly linked to pesticides and other pollutants that have made their way into water systems. Endangered species such as the Blanchard’s cricket frog, the silvery and spotted dusky salamanders, Illinois mud turtle, broad-banded watersnake, little blue heron, black rail, and yellow- and black-crowned night herons are all in danger from contaminants that might not be an immediate threat to humans.
Those contaminants are virtually everywhere and their pathways are insidious. The World’s Water 2006–2007: The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources, produced by the Pacific Institute, reports that a study of 178 streams in urban and agricultural regions throughout the United States from 1992 to 2001 detected organochlorine pesticides such as DDT in 97 percent of all water samples taken, despite most of those pesticides not being used for several years before the study began. In urban streams, 94 percent of fish sampled were found to contain one or more organochlorine compounds in their tissues. And more than half of the shallow groundwater samples taken in urban and agricultural regions revealed pesticide contamination.
Photo: Lynda Wallis
How can we accommodate such information? Many people, of course, can’t; we’re all one or two headlines away from pulling the blinds and hiding under our beds. But if there is one lesson to be learned from environmental history, it is that small victories can make enormous differences. Regulation and legislation are necessary and powerful tools, but mixed groups with varied interests, working together, can make sure that everyone’s voice is heard, especially those— like freshwater mussels, stream darters, and herons—that have no voice of their own.
Anyone can see that water quality in the Chicago region is better than it was—and almost everyone agrees that it is not nearly good enough. On the Chicago and Des Plaines rivers and along the Lake Michigan shoreline, at the water filtration plant in Evanston and the sewage treatment plant in Schaumburg, in downtown governmental offices and suburban nonprofit lunchrooms, I’ve met dozens of people who are convinced that “good enough” is not an option. Todd Main of the Friends of the Chicago River insists that with effort and determination we can make “something magnificent: A clean river.”
It seems to me that there’s a lot of optimism in the air.
About the author
Jerry Dennis, who lives near Lake Michigan in Traverse City, Michigan, has written numerous books and articles about nature and the outdoors including The Living Great Lakes, Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas. While researching Winter 2007's Special Report last summer, Jerry competed in the Flatwater Classic Canoe and Kayak Race on the Chicago River.
This special report was made possible by a grant from the Grand Victoria Foundation.
To download a PDF of this report, and to learn more about other reports in this Special Reports series published by Chicago Wilderness Magazine, please visit Chicago Wilderness Reports.