Chicago River Day 2021 Success

Chicago River Day 2021 was a huge success. Thank you to all our generous sponsors, outstanding partners, and hard working volunteers for making the 156-miles of Chicago River system healthier and more accessible for people, plants, and animals of all kinds.

Chicago River Day 2021 Thank You Video

More than 2,000 individuals, families, community groups, and corporate teams worked in and along the river system at 74 locations in the city and suburbs on Saturday May 8, 2021.

Chicago River Day on WBEZ Radio

Volunteers fanned out as far north as Lincolnshire, Lake Forest and North Chicago in Lake County and south and southwest including Dolton, Riverdale, Palos and Summit. event will be followed by a summer-long litter removal effort under Friends’ Litter Free Chicago/Calumet River program and will include volunteer cleans up on the river’s banks and by canoe.

Twenty-nine years and more than 60,000 volunteers after the first Chicago River Day, the Chicago River system is no longer a forgotten waterway fenced off and filled with sewage and trash. Instead, the river system is vibrant wildlife corridor, accessible, and alive with people, over 75 species of fish; countless species of birds; and many native animals including beavers, turtles, and the American mink, which symbolizes the river’s return to health. 

“The river is a wondrous natural resource that is coming to life yet more needs to be done to improve and protect its health,” said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River. Like waterbodies all over the world, there is a large amount of litter causing serious problems for people and wildlife. Collective, on-the-ground action like Chicago River Day is vital to raise awareness of the stubborn problem of litter. We must also grow support from the highest levels of government to reduce the consumption of single-use items and how we dispose of them.”

Chicago River Day on WGN Radio

Since 1992, Chicago River Day volunteers have carted off over 554 tons of garbage and invasive plant material from the Chicago River system and restored banks along its 156 miles of shoreline.

This year’s Chicago River Day was underwritten by a number of generous corporate partners, including Lead sponsor Aon; Stream sponsors Exelon, Lincoln Yards, McDermott Will & Emery, and Wolf Point. Click here for a complete list of Chicago River Day sponsors.

“A natural, healthy and vibrant Chicago River is a precious natural resource that benefits diverse communities throughout the river system,” said Carolyn Barry Frost, executive director of the Aon Foundation. Improving and protecting the river’s ecosystem is vital to safeguard its habitat for people and wildlife. We are proud to support Chicago River Day and Friends of the Chicago River in making a positive social impact in the life of the Chicago River.”

In addition to Chicago River Day, Friends will continue the successful Summer Challenge launched last year in response to the pandemic so volunteers can work together, but safely apart, all summer long to create a Litter Free Chicago River.

“Litter on your street today is just one rainstorm away from being litter in the river tomorrow, said Frisbie. “The Summer Challenge encourages our volunteers and supporters to take positive action to clean up litter on their block and in their communities all summer long.”

Read about the Chicago River Day Mascot 

Each year Friends features a river animal as part of Chicago River Day to help connect us to the many different animals that rely on us to care for and protect the river system. To illustrate the interconnectedness of the land and water, this year's featured animal is the American mink (Neovison vison). Volunteers for Chicago River Day 2021 will receive specially designed T-shirts bearing the image of the American mink. Mink are an important part of the native ecosystem of the Chicago River. Mink are members of the Mustelid family which includes weasels, otters, wolverines, martens, badgers and ferrets. The American mink lives in a wide range of habitats and is common throughout the contiguous United States, Alaska, and Canada.