Gullywalking and Gully Fixing

Friends of the Chicago River has embarked on a multi-year effort to address gullies caused by poorly managed stormwater in the forest preserves of Cook County which are damaging to the health of the river. 

Gullywalking Project

In 2012 Friends launched a gully identification project to locate and classify gullies along the Chicago River. Over the next two years, our volunteers walked over 45 miles along the river banks to help us find and assess gullies along the Chicago River and the Calumet River. Volunteers identified 139 gullies along the river and classified them in three levels of severity, including:

Level 1 Gullies: which should be monitored for changes but no restoration is necessary,
Level 2 Gullies: which can be repaired with careful planning and volunteer assistance,
Level 3 Gullies: which requires more dramatic interventions and partnership with the landowner, in this case the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC). 

The Gullywalking Project produced the Gullywalking Report. Since then, we've been working closely with our partners to prioritize and repair these gullies. The data collected by our Gullywalkers has helped determine restoration projects and address the destructive properties of gullies, helping us preserve and improve the Chicago River.

Gully Fixing & The Gully Guidance Manual

Here’s the scoop on gullies: Poorly managed rainwater causes a huge problem for the Chicago River. Among other issues, when rain falls on impervious surfaces like streets and parking lots, it is directed to pipes that empty directly into the Cook County Forest Preserves. The rain washes away the soil and creates gullies. This unmanaged dumping destroys our natural landscape and damages the river.

Beginning in 2013 we began repairing some of the gullies with the help of skilled volunteers and contractors depending on the gully. That work led to the development of Friends' Gully Guidance Manual, which is designed to combine what we have learned about gullies and fixing them with general guidance on how to address them locally so that other stakeholders can help fix gullies too.

The Manual also has appendicies, available for download here:

Appendix A: Illinois Joint Application Permit
Appendix B: USACE Sec. 404 Sample Permit Application
Appendix C: Gully Restoration Sample Plant List
​Appendix D: Gullywalking Data Collection Form
Appendix E: Partner Agency Group Leader Description
​Appendix F: Stewardship Workday Leader Description
Appendix G: FPCC Supply Order Form
​Appendix H: Equipment Loaner Form

In addition to the manual, Friends' has two digital reports from consultants who worked with us at Kickapoo Woods, a Centennial Volunteers site. Their reports detail gully fixing approaches that complement our approach.

Kickapoo Woods Restoration Plan: Gully Recommendations by WRD Environmental
Kickapoo Woods Gully Restoration Report by Conservation Land Stewardship

Gully Fixing: Volunteer Workdays and Training

If you would like to volunteer to fix gullies, please visit our volunteer pages. For information on assisting Friends with other restoration projects or to find projects at specific sites/dates, please contact (312) 939-0490, ext 18.