Your Support Improves and Protects the River System

North Branch of the Chicago River at River Park.

Grey winter skies and the continued turbulence of these difficult times cannot diminish our joy of knowing that each year, the Chicago River system becomes healthier and more people are invested in its renaissance.

In 2021 alone, Friends restored 129 acres of river-edge land at the Crooked Creek tributary, part of a regional effort in the Palos area which is one of the largest restoration projects in Illinois. The Chicago-Calumet River Watershed Council continued to identify ways to maximize multiple ecological, social and climate resiliency objectives across jurisdictional boundaries and launched its first multi-benefit ecosystem restoration project: $100,000 worth of improvements to the Chicago Park District’s Indian Ridge Marsh-South in Chicago’s South Deering community. Meanwhile, the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum opened for a full season and the Chicago River Schools Network resumed in-person programming for K-12 teachers and students, so more people can learn about the river and why it is an invaluable natural asset worth protecting.

Support & Protect the River System

Your participation in our work this past year serves as proof to elected officials and the general public that the river has advocates, stewards, and defenders. Over 2,000 people participated in Chicago River Day and the Summer Challenge, picking up trash at over 70 sites along the river. You removed trash directly from the river during Canoe and Cleans, and installed native plants along its banks during Paddle and Plants. The inaugural Summer Float Party saw individuals, families, and elected officials take to the North Shore Channel in August in an array of inner tubes, floating loungers, and inflatable toys, having fun and raising awareness that the river is swimmable.

These successes contributed to broad recognition in the last 12 months that the river is thriving and our efforts are working. For a second consecutive award cycle, Friends and the Chicago River system were one of three global finalists for the Thiess International Riverprize. Friends received an Honorable Mention in the Sustainable Landscaping category from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago at their 9th Annual Sustainability Summit, recognizing our work improving stormwater infiltration through landscape and habitat restoration. Earlier this month, our reconnection of the Mill Creek tributary to the Cal-Sag Channel received a Chicago Wilderness Dr. George B. Rabb Force of Nature Award. Friends is deeply honored to be the only organization to have won two.

Let’s continue this powerful momentum together in 2022. Stand up for people, water, and wildlife. Keep conserving personal water use during rainstorms to reduce combined sewer overflows, as inclement weather worsens due to the climate crisis. Pencil in our 30th annual Chicago River Day in May. Book a corporate River Action Day, a custom canoe trip or Bridgehouse event.

And become a Friends member or increase your current membership level. Your gift of any size will provide the operating support that impacts all of our programs and initiatives – and provides you with some fun member benefits as well. The CARES Act is once again allowing individuals to deduct up to $300 in charitable donations for the 2021 tax year, and married couples to deduct up to $600; contributions made by December 31 will qualify.

Your support goes directly towards our mission to improve and protect the Chicago River system for people, plants, and animals. Any contribution you can make is meaningful and powerful. We thank you deeply for believing in our work and that a healthy, clean river is achievable today and for future generations.