Not exactly the CAF River Tour…

It’s my final week on sabbatical, and my brother-in-law came up with a good celebratory research activity last weekend.  He has a 17′ bass fishing boat, and after calling around, he discovered that the boat ramp at Burnham Harbor (behind Soldier Field, for those of you who want to replicate this bit of urban bushwhacking) is free.  So the logical question was this: can you put in at Burnham Harbor, motor around Meigs Field, across Chicago Harbor, and get into the river through the locks?

The answer, as you can see, is yes.  And the view of the city from the River is pretty spectacular.  The top two are from around Goose Island, with some shots of the Loop below.

The River, of course, is still a working industrial river for much of its length–certainly to the south, where it connects through the Illinois River to the Mississippi.  But it also has the occasional boatyard, still full of shrink-wrapped sail and motorboats waiting for warmer weather (it was pretty chilly this weekend…)  Downtown, of course, it was utterly transformed in the late 1920s by Wacker Drive and a dozen or so new bridges, all done up in a Second Empire style, and the contrast between those two short stretches and the miles of warehouses, piers, rail yards and factories along the rest of the river is pretty telling.

OK, you ask, so these are nice shots of the city from the river.  But what about the lake?  Didn’t you take any shots of the skyline from the lake?  Well, it was a brisk day, and there was a pretty consistent 15-knot wind blowing across us.  A 17-foot bass boat in 3-foot seas is sort of barely stable, and we were mostly holding on and willing the boat to stay upright.  Possible to navigate into the River from Burnham Harbor on a small fishing boat?  Yes.  Wise? Not so much.

Anyway, many thanks to everyone in Chicago who’s made this semester so productive and so enjoyable.  I start teaching back in Ames on Monday, but hope to be back and forth over the next year getting illustrations prepared.

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