Chicago River Day

Join us for the 32nd Annual Chicago River Day

May 11, 2024 ~ 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

After Parties 12 - 3 p.m.

Every year since 1992, thousands of volunteers come together on Chicago River Day to build community while removing litter from our local waterways. The Chicago-Calumet River system is healthier now than it’s been in 150 years, providing critical habitat for all sorts of animals from migratory birds to beavers, turtles and over 75 species of fish. But litter continues to be detrimental, harming people and wildlife and causing negative community, economic, and public health impacts. You can make a difference by volunteering this fun, free, family-friendly annual cleanup. Chicago River Day is the flagship event for Friends’ Litter Free Chicago-Calumet River initiative, which works to reduce the amount of trash harming our watershed.

Following your cleanup, join us for after parties at Blue Island Beer Company or Burning Bush Brewery from 12 - 3 p.m. Meet fellow volunteers, swap stories and enjoy some refreshments while celebrating your hard work!

Register for Chicago River Day TODAY!

Advance registration requested. 

Every participant must register individually, as you are agreeing to the required waivers for the site as a part of registration. Register by May 3, 2024 to help us understand the supply needs for each location and ensure we have enough of our famous T-shirts. Registration is open until the site is full. Volunteers who register after May 3 need to show proof of registration (email confirmation or prinited ticket) the morning of the event and are not guaranteed a T-shirt, though we will do our best to make sure all volunteers receive one. We will do our best to accomodate walk-up volunteers, though space is limited, especially at on the water locations. Anyone under 18 requires a guardian to sign them up. For more information Check out Chicago River Day FAQs here.

How to Register:

  1. Use your mouse or the +/- buttons at the bottom of the map to zoom into the part of the watershed where you would like to volunteer.
    OR Click on the arrow at the upper left of the map to see sites listed alphabetically.
  2. Look for a green or blue pin. Green pins are for on land cleanups, blue pins are on the water, meaning you will be cleaning from canoe or kayak. Orange pins are sites where registration is full. Yellow pins are adopted by a group.
  3. Click on the pin and use the link within it to register for that specific Chicago River Day site. 

Every year we feature a river animal to help us connect to the animals who rely on us to care for and protect this important river system. The 2024 featured animal is the black-crowned night heron. Despite being endangered in Illinois, this iconic bird is regularly seen on the river system, a true testament to the critical role river habitat plays in our complex and threatened ecosystem. The river’s health has rebounded significantly since 1979 when Friends started, making a more welcoming habitat for these beautiful birds.

Friends of the Chicago River invites you to sponsor this cherished watershed-wide community cleanup. Your sponsorship support allows Chicago River Day to be free and accessible for everyone, ensuring all volunteers have the support and supplies for a successful cleanup. 

Become a Sponsor

See our growing list of 2024 Sponsors

Every year Friends features one of the many creatures who call the Chicago-Calumet River system home to help illustrate the importance of caring for this important habitat. Check back to discover the 2024 featured creature!

Listen to the WBEZ story on last years event here: WBEZ Features Chicago River Day.

Interested in helping clean up throughout the year? Check out other Litter Free opportunties here.

Litter is one of the most persistant environmental problems we face. Working together with amazing friends, members, volunteers, partners like Shedd Aquarium, Waste Management, and Loyola University's Dr. Tim Hoellein, and the visionary steadfast support of the Mars Wrigley Foundation, we can create a Litter Free Chicago-Calumet River system.