of the Chicago River
Friends of the Chicago River is the only organization solely dedicated to the Chicago River. Since 1979, Friends has been working to improve the health of the Chicago River for the benefit of people and wildlife and by doing so, has laid the foundation for the river to be a beautiful, continuous, easily accessible corridor of open space in the Chicago region.
Friends’ work spans the entire 156-mile Chicago River system and its surrounding watershed. We focus on a greener river with healthy habitat, an accessible river that people can use and enjoy, and a river cared for by a broad group of supporters. Friends works in partnership with municipalities, businesses, community groups, schools, peer organizations, government agencies and individuals on projects that benefit the river.
We believe the river can be both ecologically healthy and a catalyst for community revitalization.
In 2006, Friends opened the seasonal McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum in a landmarked bridgehouse on the Chicago Riverwalk to provide new access and understanding of the dynamic relationship between Chicago and its river. Click here for opening hours and information.
Meet our board of directors.
For more information about Friends, see our FY2011 Annual Report (1.9M).
Past Annual Reports
Friends’ Honors and Awards
The River Reporter
Download all the latest news from the Chicago River watershed. Friends’ newsletter, The River Reporter, has it all. Save on paper and read the electronic version, or print it out to read later.
How Do We Measure Success?
Friends’ evaluation methods measure our impact on the health of the river and those who live, work, and recreate within its watershed. Depending on the program or activity, our assessment criteria includes the number of people reached, constituent retention rates, quality of service delivery, and/or tangible short-term and long-range impact of Friends’ work. In addition, we use participant surveys to ask deeper questions and we gauge the environmental impact of our on-the-ground projects by monitoring wildlife and water quality. We assess progress in the rules governing the river and progress in regulatory proceeding to evaluate our public policy work. These efforts help ensure that Friends is achieving our intended outcomes and inform ongoing program development.
To try and better understand if our work is effective in the context of some general questions which reflect our organization’s purpose and values, we ask does our work:
-Change attitudes and behaviors regarding the river?
-Improve public access to the Chicago River?
-Engage a broad supportive constituency?
-Address unique our urban challenges?
-Enhance watershed thinking and action?
This added annual evaluation of development, administrative, and program work is compared against the goals and strategies of our 2008-2012 strategic plan. Each year Friends’ staff reviews our programs and work plans to ensure we are working effectively and strategically, and that we are good stewards of the resources contributed for this essential work.