Chicago River Day FAQs

Who participates in Chicago River Day? 
Friends of the Chicago River attracts thousands of new and returning volunteers, including school groups, corporate teams, families, community organizations, and individuals working side-by-side to enhance and restore the river…and you!

How long will I be volunteering? 
Chicago River Day is scheduled from 9 a.m. - noon. 

When can I sign up for Chicago River Day?
Registration for Chicago River Day begins March 15, 2024.

How do I sign up for a Chicago River Day location? 
A Google map will have all the sites available for you to choose from is on the Chicago River Day registration page. Register by clicking on the link for your desired site and completing the Eventbrite registration form. Every participant must register individually, anyone under 18 requires a guardian to sign them up. 

What is the minimum age of volunteer that can attend? 
At most sites, the minimum age of event participant is eight years old. We welcome familes to volunteer together, provided there is one adult watching any children under eight. A handful of sites are super family friendly, meaning that the little ones can hang out at other parts of the site with a parent while the rest of the family volunteers.

What will volunteers be doing that day? 
Volunteer activities vary from site to site. Volunteer projects on Chicago River Day include trash collection, removing invasive vegetation, sprucing up river-edge trails, planting native seedlings and more. 

How do I get to my site? 
You are responsible for getting to the site on your own. Many sites are available via public transit or by bike. Most locations have parking nearby. Many registration pages will designate a meeting spot. 

What can I expect when I arrive at my site? 
Chicago River Day is an outdoor event located in a variety of city parks, forest preserves, school yards and businesses all along the banks of the Chicago-Calumet River system and its tributaries. Each site has a Site Captain to greet you upon arrival. They will check you in against the registration list, provide an overview of the day’s activities, a safety talk, and distribute supplies and t-shirts to all volunteers.

Is there an afterparty this year?

Yes! Meet fellow volunteers, swap stories and enjoy some refreshments while celebrating your hard work from 12 - 3 p.m.! The northside after-party is hosted by Burning Bush Brewery, a beautiful spot off Irving Park Road, just across the river from Horner Park. The southside after party is hosted by Blue Island Beer Company, a great spot on Old Western blocks away from the Cal-Sag Channel. Volunteers receive a FREE beer or soda on the house (exculsions may apply). All ages and furry friends are welcome! Friends will provide snacks, and you are welcome to bring or order-in food as well.

What happens if it rains? 
Chicago River Day proceeds rain or shine. Plan your clothing accordingly. In the event of thunder and lightning, sites will shut down. Should there be inclement weather, staff will evaluate the weather 3 hours before the event and notify participants via email as well was posting on social media. Should lighting be spotted during the event, the Site Captain will decide whether to delay or cancel the event at that site. 

What should I bring to Chicago River Day? 
You should plan to bring all of the things you think are necessary for working in the outdoors. Volunteers should wear closed-toe shoes and comfortable clothes that can get dirty or damp. You should dress for the weather to make sure you are comfortable and warm. If it looks like it might rain, rain coats or ponchos are advisable. We also strongly encourage you to bring water, sunscreen, and your favorite work gloves.

Friends provides basic gloves. For the most part, the gloves are plastic to protect your hands from unsanitary garbage. We highly recommend bringing your favorite pair of work gloves with you if you want something sturdier. We cannot guarantee cloth work gloves for all volunteers.

What is the COVID policy?
To promote the safety, health and comfort of volunteers and staff, we ask participants to be fully vaccinated, unless they have a medical exemption, and consider wearing masks when social distancing is not possible. Please do not come if you are feeling ill, have traveled to a COVID hotspot or been around anyone in the last 14 days who showed any symptoms.  Visit Friends’ website to see the complete Volunteer Events COVID-19 Protocols.

All volunteers need to sign liability waivers.
Individual registration is required as it is safer, and a better use of time for volunteers to have the opportunity to read and agree to waivers in advance of the event. We strongly encourage registering at least one week before the event so we can provide enough supplies and t-shirts. Walk up volunteers are accepted, but not encouraged, and will be asked to register if possible through their phone or with paper waivers.  Friends’ cannot allow volunteers to participate or have an event t-shirt without these waivers. 

Waivers - 

Friends Waiver - for all sites

Chicago Park District - for all the Chicago Park District Sites

Forest Preserves Waiver - for all Forest Preserve locations

MWRD Adult Waiver  - for all MWRD Sites 

MWRD Minor Waiver - for all MWRD Sites 

WAIVER AND RELEASE - CTA Adult - Ashland Orange Line Station

WAIVER AND RELEASE - CTA Minor - Ashland Orange Line Station

Lincolnwood - Lincolnwood Centennial Park 

Glenview - Techny Basin and Downtown Glenview

Lake Katherine Nature Preserve - for the Lake Katherine Nature Preserve Site

City of Evanston - Evanston Ecology Center, Canal Shores Golf Course, 

Evanston Ecology Center Project Habitat Waiver- for the Evanston Ecology Center Site

FPLC Volunteer Agreement and Waiver - for Skokie River Prairie Land and Water Reserve and Skokie River Nature Preserve

Volunteer Waiver LBOLA - for Skokie River Prairie Land and Water Reserve and Skokie River Nature Preserve

Shedd Waiver - Ping Tom Memorial Park

On the water locations may have waivers that must be signed on site