Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rivers in Illinois History

Lately, I've been completely sucked in by Northwestern's Medill Reports. One of their recent stories highlighted the role the Chicago River has played in the rise of Chicago, beginning as a shallow stream in a swamp and becoming a busy shipping corridor. The full story is available here and well worth the read.    

But, it also reminded me of a great report sitting in IWRC's archives which chronicles the development of waterways all over Illinois. An Annotated Bibliography of Observations on Illinois Water Resources 1673 to 1850 was produced by history professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1966 and contains quotes for the early explorers of Illinois, like this observation of the Illinois River from Marquette:

"We have seen nothing like this river that we enter, as regards its fertility of soil, its prairies and woods; its cattle  [buffalo], elk, deer, wildcats, bustards, swans, ducks, parroquets, and even beaver.  That on which we sailed is wide, deep, and still, for 65 leagues.  In the spring and during part   of the Summer there is only one portage of half a league  [at   Chicago]."