WENDELLA BOAT TOUR: The 90-Minute Combined Lake and River Tour

Made on the water, by the water.

Our first research adventure after arriving to Threewalls was a 90-minute Wendella Boat Tour of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.  As we motored through the cityscape, our guide narrated a brief history of the city, in addition to the names and historical significances of the passing skyscrapers and architectural eye-candy. Throughout this collection of stories, he continued to emphasize that the city of Chicago was “built on the water, by the water.” He also pointed out the water cannon that shoots off a huge stream of water for 10 minutes at the top of each hour in celebration of Chicago’s many years of water reclamation.

For us, perhaps the most significant part of the tour was entering Lake Michigan from the mouth of the river up through the locks. The locks are carefully controlled to monitor the amount of water that moves from Lake Michigan into the Chicago River and from there to the Des Plains River, the Illinois River, the Mississippi River and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.

From our the vantage point on Lake Michigan, we began to identify the architectural and engineering feats that would be the most relevant to our own research:  Jardine Water Purification Plant and several water intake cribs further off the shore. To our surprise, we later learned that, until the 1960’s, residents of Chicago and the surrounding area received their drinking water directly from the lake to the tap, without any process of filtering or treatment.  Yum!