Restoration of Beautiful Mill Creek is Complete

On November 17, 2022, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) officially declared our Mill Creek restoration project successfully complete, the final milestone of a major restoration project to reconnect southwest suburban Mill Creek to the Cal-Sag Channel, reversing a 100-year-old decision to separate the two waterways. The project was initiated in 2019 by Friends of the Chicago River with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

Fish monitoring by Friends and our partners at IDNR and the Forest Preserves of Cook County established that five species of fish including channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) and pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus) had moved up into Mill Creek just months after limestone and concrete barriers were removed and replaced with naturalistic rock and pool formations that enable fish to swim upstream. When the 16-mile, man-made Cal-Sag Channel opened in 1922, engineers built it below the limestone at Mill Creek effectively blocking passage for most aquatic life. Mussels, an important component of the food web and an indicator species of water quality, were also found in Mill Creek in 2020 by aquatic biologists and researchers from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

Located in the Palos region, Mill Creek runs over two miles to the Cal-Sag Channel which connects the Little Calumet River to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, part of the Chicago River system. The Cook County Forest Preserve District will oversee the long-term maintenance of the beautifully restored creek.

For our exceptional work at Mill Creek, Friends was among 12 honorees awarded the 2021 Dr. George B. Rabb Force of Nature Award by Chicago Wilderness.