Calumet: First and Forever

Chapter 2: Calumet-Sag Channel and Little Calumet River

Creeks and Ditches

CFF-Photo 2.1.1
CFF-Photo 2.1.1

Photo 2.1.1. The District began drainage ditch construction early using its own employees and equipment. Although much equipment was left over from earlier projects, a dredge was not in the inventory. Small drainage ditches through marshes required a specific type of dredge and the District built its own near Worth, shown under construction on December 6, 1911. (MWRD photo 4714)

CFF-Photo 2.1.2
CFF-Photo 2.1.2

Photo 2.1.2. On September 3, 1912, the District’s steam dipper dredge with a timber boom is excavating the North Drainage Ditch near Worth. The dipper arm is reaching down into the wet soil. High water levels in the marshes enabled floating equipment to be used most of the time. (MWRD photo 4755)

CFF-Photo 2.1.3
CFF-Photo 2.1.3

Photo 2.1.3. The dipper arm and boom swings to the side allowing the bucket to release its load. The delay in award of one channel excavation contract required the District to excavate this part of the North Drainage Ditch so that other contractors would have proper drainage for their contract work. (MWRD photo 4756)

CFF-Photo 2.1.4
CFF-Photo 2.1.4

Photo 2.1.4. June 19, 1919, the South Feeder Road bridge over Mill Creek, looking south. A new bridge was needed to improve the road crossing and to provide a stable structure to resist creek bed erosion. The new channel will be a lower outlet for the creek; creek channel degradation was anticipated. (MWRD photo 7141)

CFF-Photo 2.1.5
CFF-Photo 2.1.5

Photo 2.1.5. November 19, 1919, the South Feeder Road bridge over Mill Creek, looking south. After five months, grading of the road and areas near the bridge has been completed. Beneath the bridge deck, the creek opening had a paved bottom and deep cutoff walls to resist erosion. A weir was included in the upstream face of the structure. (MWRD photo 7387)

CFF-Photo 2.1.6
CFF-Photo 2.1.6

Photo 2.1.6. June 18, 1920. After seven months, a broad crested concrete weir has been added on the upstream side of the South Feeder Road bridge over Mill Creek. Looking north, creek bed erosion is evident in the foreground. Through the bridge opening, the creek outlet to the new channel is visible. (MWRD photo 7622)

CFF-Photo 2.1.7
CFF-Photo 2.1.7

Photo 2.1.7. The South Feeder Road bridge over Mill Creek, looking west over the bridge deck, June 19, 1919. The new channel is to the right, north of the rock spoil piles. Palos Township, road owner, required the District to build the bridge and provide perpetual maintenance. (MWRD photo 7140)

CFF-Photo 2.1.8
CFF-Photo 2.1.8

Photo 2.1.8. December 31, 1912. The Calumet Feeder is being enlarged to become the South Drainage Ditch near Palos Park. Looking east, the ditch at this point is on the south side of the South Feeder Road and will divert Mill Creek. Farther west, the ditch crosses under the road and will be closer to the new channel route. District engineers are checking the line and grade of the ditch. (MWRD photo 4780)

CFF-Photo 2.1.9
CFF-Photo 2.1.9

Photo 2.1.9. December 6, 1915. One mile east of the prior photograph, the South Drainage Ditch is closer to the new channel north of the spoil piles at left. In the intervening three years, channel excavation is nearly complete. For access to the channel from the South Feeder Road, the contractor installed culverts and a road to cross the ditch. (MWRD photo 5265)

CFF-Photo 2.1.10
CFF-Photo 2.1.10

Photo 2.1.10. May 17, 1921. Looking west from Eighty-Second Avenue near Palos Park, the South Drainage Ditch is becoming overgrown. Some of the ditch remains and could presently be a roadside ditch along the Cal-Sag Road west of Southwest Highway. (MWRD photo 8180)

CFF-Photo 2.1.11
CFF-Photo 2.1.11

Photo 2.1.11. May 17, 1921, a typical farm road bridge over the South Drainage Ditch. The District maintained these bridges while channel construction was in progress. Even if the ditch remains in use at present, it is unlikely that any of these farm road bridges survive to the present day. (MWRD photo 8181)

CFF-Photo 2.1.12
CFF-Photo 2.1.12

Photo 2.1.12. October 20, 1919. The mouth of the Calumet Feeder at the I&M Canal in the foreground has remained unchanged in this eastward view, despite construction of the Calumet-Sag Channel nearby to the north at left. Part of the feeder’s flow has been diverted to the new channel. (MWRD photo 7315.2)

CFF-Photo 2.1.13
CFF-Photo 2.1.13

Photo 2.1.13. May 12, 1919. This outfall, diverting part of the flow of the Calumet Feeder, was built into the south wall of the Calumet-Sag Channel at the east end of the lie-by (passing place) in section 1. The feeder appears in the background in this view, and is connected to the outfall by a short ditch. (MWRD photo 7060)

CFF-Photo 2.1.14
CFF-Photo 2.1.14

Photo 2.1.14. Part of the North Drainage Ditch that remains at present is the Ken Kay Ditch in Worth. The ditch passes under Harlem Avenue (formerly Worth Road) at 116th Street. The culvert in place on June 9, 1921, is shown above. This view to the west is of the east portal with the road and railing above the culvert. (MWRD photo 8215)

CFF-Photo 2.1.15
CFF-Photo 2.1.15

Photo 2.1.15. October 2019. Ken Kay Ditch, formerly the North Drainage Ditch, looking west from Oak Park Avenue in Worth. The ditch continues to provide surface drainage for the nearby neighborhood. The ditch and adjoining Homerding Park are on District-owned property, leased to the Worth Park District. (Photo by author)

CFF-Photo 2.1.16
CFF-Photo 2.1.16

Photo 2.1.16. August 2019. Another remnant of the North Drainage Ditch, found in Alsip, is east of Cicero Avenue running along the south side of 131st Street. Looking east in, the ditch is much shallower than its former self. Freedom Park is the eastern terminus, for now, of the Cal-Sag Trail, a trail for biking and hiking. (Photo by author)

CFF-Photo 2.1.17
CFF-Photo 2.1.17

Photo 2.1.17. June 9, 1921. About 8900 West, a new outfall was created for Stony Creek West Branch, formerly known as the Calumet Feeder, to flow directly into the Calumet-Sag Channel. The outfall ditch has been graded to the channel in the background. Even though the entire channel wasn’t open as of this date, it can accept flow since the west end connection to the Sanitary & Ship Canal is open. (MWRD photo 8223)

CFF-Photo 2.1.18
CFF-Photo 2.1.18

Photo 2.1.18. June 19, 1919. This part of the North Drainage Ditch near the western end of the Calumet-Sag Channel is no longer needed for channel construction, but it serves to carry runoff from Mount Forest Island in the right background. It has also become pasture for a local pig farm. (MWRD photo 7143)

CFF-Photo 2.1.19
CFF-Photo 2.1.19

Photo 2.1.19. June 18, 1920. The Burr Oak Road Bridge crosses Tinley Creek south of the new channel. From the east creek bank north of the bridge looking south, a broad crested concrete weir on the upstream side of the bridge structure can be seen through the bridge opening. This weir and others downstream were needed to reduce erosion. (MWRD photo 7630)

CFF-Photo 2.1.20
CFF-Photo 2.1.20

Photo 2.1.20. June 18, 1920. Several hundred feet separated the Burr Oak Road Bridge over Tinley Creek and the new channel. More than one weir was needed to control erosion in the creek over this distance; a second one is seen looking south toward the bridge. (MWRD photo 7631)

CFF-Photo 2.1.21
CFF-Photo 2.1.21

Photo 2.1.21. September 16, 1920. Tinley Creek has dried up, enabling one to see the drop in creek bed elevation from upstream to downstream under the Burr Oak Road Bridge. Without the weirs, erosion would eventually undermine the bridge foundation, causing failure. (MWRD photo 7832)

CFF-Photo 2.1.22
CFF-Photo 2.1.22

Photo 2.1.22. November 28, 1920. Slight flow had returned in Tinley Creek under the Burr Oak Road Bridge. In the prior two months, hand-placed rock riprap was laid on the side slopes of the creek downstream of the bridge to armor the creek banks to resist erosion. (MWRD photo 7936)

CFF-Photo 2.1.23
CFF-Photo 2.1.23

Photo 2.1.23. November 28, 1920. A short apron of hand-placed rock riprap was placed on the creek bed upstream of the Burr Oak Road Bridge over Tinley Creek. This was another protective measure to resist erosion and safeguard the bridge structure. (MWRD photo 7937)

CFF-Photo 2.1.24
CFF-Photo 2.1.24

Photo 2.1.24. August 11, 1922. Another broad crested concrete weir has been added at the mouth of Tinley Creek where it flows into the Calumet-Sag Channel. On looking south, two weirs can be seen before the Burr Oak Road Bridge. The weir at the mouth also has concrete paving on the channel and creek banks to resist erosion. (MWRD photo 9383)

CFF-Photo 2.1.25
CFF-Photo 2.1.25

Photo 2.1.25. December 1, 1916. It was intended that Tinley Creek be diverted to the South Drainage Ditch, but limited capacity in low areas west of Blue Island resulted in local flooding. Instead, Tinley Creek was diverted to the North Drainage Ditch by constructing a timber flume across the excavation for the new channel. Looking west, the Burr Oak Road Bridge truss in the background appears above the flume. (MWRD photo 5704)

CFF-Photo 2.1.26
CFF-Photo 2.1.26

Photo 2.1.26. December 1, 1916. The timber flume side walls and floor would leak excessively, and to prevent leakage, the interior of the flume was lined with roofing paper and the seams sealed with hot tar. By completing this work before the onset of winter, the flume would be ready for spring floods. (MWRD photo 5706)

CFF-Photo 2.1.27
CFF-Photo 2.1.27

Photo 2.1.27. A slight flow from spring snowmelt is entering the Tinley Creek flume, April 10, 1917. District employees are inspecting the flume for damage after the winter. Discharge from the flume was carried in the North Drainage Ditch into Blue Island almost to Western Avenue. At that point, another flume carried the flow over the new channel to the South Drainage Ditch. (MWRD photo 5846)

CFF-Photo 2.1.28
CFF-Photo 2.1.28

Photo 2.1.28. The Tinley Creek diversion flume served for over five years conveying creek water to the North Drainage Ditch. Here, on April 10, 1918, it is above a full channel, open only to the Sanitary & Ship Canal. Diversion of the creek was a precaution to avoid flooding of channel construction still underway through Blue Island. (MWRD photo 6445)

CFF-Photo 2.1.29
CFF-Photo 2.1.29

Photo 2.1.29. January 28, 1921. The outfall for Stony Creek East Branch was elaborate and built into the north wall of the Calumet-Sag Channel immediately west of the Ann Street Bridge in Blue Island. The invert of the creek was much higher than the channel bottom. Much cleanup work remains to complete channel construction. (MWRD photo 8020)

CFF-Photo 2.1.30
CFF-Photo 2.1.30

Photo 2.1.30. April 19, 1921, view from a side street access bridge over the creek. Horse teams are used to grade the bed of the paved Stony Creek East Branch channel upstream of the V-shaped dual outfall. The upstream channel will be contained by a wall constructed along the west side of the north approach of the Ann Street Bridge at left. (MWRD photo 8101)

CFF-Photo 2.1.31
CFF-Photo 2.1.31

Photo 2.1.31. August 29, 1924, Stony Creek East Branch outfall structure two years after the channel was placed in operation. The creek bed between the dual-V outfall openings and the dual-V inlet openings is paved and walled by concrete. The steps atop the channel wall are part of a public walkway along the channel walls in Blue Island. The bridge allows access to the manufactured gas plant from Ann Street. (MWRD photo 11138)

CFF-Photo 2.1.32
CFF-Photo 2.1.32

Photo 2.1.32. April 19, 1921. East of Ann Street in Blue Island, Stony Creek East Branch is diverted into the North Drainage Ditch running parallel to the new channel at right until Western Avenue. In the distance, Western Avenue passes under the Rock Island Railroad viaduct to the right of center. The ditch, in a flume, passes under the railroad viaduct to the left of center. (MWRD photo 8100)

CFF-Photo 2.1.33
CFF-Photo 2.1.33

Photo 2.1.33. July 24, 1917, looking west from Western Avenue along the North Drainage Ditch in Blue Island. The ditch passed north of the gas plant in the background, curves south toward the new channel, then curves east to flow almost to Western Avenue, where, as shown in the foreground, it turns south, crossing the new channel in a flume to the South Drainage Ditch. (MWRD photo 6057)

CFF-Photo 2.1.34
CFF-Photo 2.1.34

Photo 2.1.34. March 5, 1918. The North Drainage Ditch is diverted across the channel construction area in a timber flume, shown in the middle of the photograph, to the South Drainage Ditch. In front of the flume, travelling forms are constructing channel walls. The flume passes under the Western Avenue Bridge and under the Rock Island Railroad viaduct to the right of center. (MWRD photo 6405)

CFF-Photo 2.1.35
CFF-Photo 2.1.35

Photo 2.1.35. March 5, 1918. Looking down from the Rock Island Railroad, the flume diverting the North Drainage Ditch ends in the foreground and the water continues on to the South Drainage Ditch in the right background. Meanwhile, at left, channel excavation has been completed and the base of an excavator is being dismantled. (MWRD photo 6404)

CFF-Photo 2.1.36
CFF-Photo 2.1.36

Photo 2.1.36. December 4, 1913. Looking west from Chicago Street in Blue Island, the South Drainage Ditch flowing east contains the diverted flow of the North Drainage Ditch. The construction zone for the new channel occupies the wide space north of the ditch. The empty creek channel appears at the right edge of the photograph. A church steeple and a large gas holding tank are familiar landmarks on the horizon. (MWRD photo 4874)

CFF-Photo 2.1.37
CFF-Photo 2.1.37

Photo 2.1.37. The Chicago Street bridges are west of the point where the South Drainage Ditch turns south in the foreground. The railroad track is used by the channel contractor to move excavated spoil away from the residential area. The large diversion ditch through Blue Island and east to the Little Calumet River is needed to handle flood flows from west of Blue Island. (MWRD photo 4876)

CFF-Photo 2.1.38
CFF-Photo 2.1.38

Photo 2.1.38. December 4, 1913. Looking southeast from the Canal Street Bridge toward the Seeley Street Bridge, the South Drainage Ditch turns east. The close proximity of buildings shows how challenging it was for District engineers to route the ditch through Blue Island. (MWRD photo 4878)

CFF-Photo 2.1.39
CFF-Photo 2.1.39

Photo 2.1.39. December 4, 1913. From the Seeley Street Bridge looking east, excavation of the South Drainage Ditch is still underway and there is another half-mile before reaching the Little Calumet River. The ditch needed ample capacity because flood flows were increased by upstream drainage changes and reduced over bank flood storage along Stony Creek East Branch. (MWRD photo 4879)

CFF-Photo 2.1.40
CFF-Photo 2.1.40

Photo 2.1.40. October 6, 1914. From the mouth of the South Drainage Ditch at the Little Calumet River, looking northwest along the ditch. A deep cut had to be made through the higher ground away from the river bank. (MWRD photo 5001)

CFF-Photo 2.1.41
CFF-Photo 2.1.41

Photo 2.1.41. October 6, 1914. Looking southeast, the mouth of the South Drainage Ditch empties into the Little Calumet River just upstream of the Roll Street Bridge. The bridge remains to the present day, although it is closed to traffic and the street is named Aulwurm Drive. (MWRD photo 5000)

CFF-Photo 2.1.42
CFF-Photo 2.1.42

Photo 2.1.42. October 2, 1922. The North Drainage Ditch west of Western Avenue has been completely backfilled and the ground surface graded. The slight S-curve in the new channel at left, an inconvenience for barges in the narrow channel, will be straightened when the channel is widened in the 1960s. (MWRD photo 9527)

CFF-Photo 2.1.43
CFF-Photo 2.1.43

Photo 2.1.43. June 8, 1922. The new channel is two months short of completion. The South Drainage Ditch is still being used for flood flows. This view, looking east from Western Avenue, also shows a long string of dump cars along the south side of the ditch. These cars will be used to backfill the ditch when it is no longer needed. (MWRD photo 9150)

CFF-Photo 2.1.44
CFF-Photo 2.1.44

Photo 2.1.44. July 12, 1922. Looking east from Western Avenue along the South Drainage Ditch, the ditch has been partially filled in. The tracks have been moved closer to the top of the ditch bank for the next backfilling operation. (MWRD photo 9261)

CFF-Photo 2.1.45
CFF-Photo 2.1.45

Photo 2.1.45. Two days after the new channel has been placed in operation, the South Drainage Ditch east of Western Avenue has been completely backfilled and the ground graded. The District maintained ownership of this property and leased it for community purposes. It was eventually used for widening the Calumet-Sag Channel. (MWRD photo 9408)