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This division was named for the river that, on maps and in accounts of early explorers, was variously called the Konomick, Killamick, Calamick, and other versions of its Indian name. Calumet, a word for the ceremonial pipe of peace, eventually became the name commonly used and, on a map of the Chicago region published in 1851 by James H. Rees, this stream was called the Little Calumet River.
It has a curiously complicated history. At one time, long ago, the Little Calumet flowed westward from its source in La Porte County, Indiana, parallel to the lake shore and only a few miles from it, and entered Lake Michigan near Riverdale. When the first settlers came, the lake had receded to its present level and the river, making a hairpin bend at Blue Island, meandered eastward to an outlet north of Miller, Indiana. The upper and lower parts then flowed parallel to each other but in opposite directions, separated by a series of alternating sand ridges and lagoons or swales.
Eventually a channel, called the Calumet River, was dug from near Hegewisch to an outlet at Calumet Harbor, South Chicago. This reversed the flow of the lower part, now called the Grand Calumet River, and also provided outlets for Lake Calumet and Wolf Lake.
The Calumet-Sag Channel, started in 1911 and completed in 1922, was constructed by the Sanitary District of Chicago primarily to divert the flow of the Little Calumet, Grand Calumet, their tributaries and the sewage emptied into them, from Lake Michigan to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in the Des Plaines River valley. It also served as a narrow minor route for barge traffic to and from the steel mills, refineries and other industrial plants on or near the south end of Lake Michigan. Now this channel is being widened and deepened to become a vital part of the Illinois Deep Waterway system.
Completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway made it possible for ocean going freighters and tankers to ply between Chicago and foreign ports. To accommodate them and the rapidly growing Calumet Industrial District, Lake Calumet is being developed as a deep water harbor connected with Lake Michigan by the Calumet River, and with the Deep Waterway by the "Cal-Sag" canal.
The forest preserve areas in this division, other than that part of Dan Ryan Woods at the north end of the Blue Island ridge, are situated on the remarkably flat Chicago Plain - originally the bed of Lake Chicago, ancestor of Lake Michigan. As the last glacier melted away from this region, its waters created this lake that extended westward to LaGrange and southward to Homewood and Glenwood. It had two outlets - one through the Des Plaines valley, the other through the Sag valley -- around Mt. Forest Island and what is now the Argonne Forest in the Palos Preserves.
At its highest stage, about 60 feet above the present level of Lake Michigan, part of the Blue Island ridge stood from 10 to 35 feet above the water. That ridge, about 6 miles long and a mile or more in width, is a thick moraine of drift deposited by the glacier.
Prehistoric aborigines built mounds, now destroyed, on high ground near Blue Island, South Chicago, Riverdale and Thornton. Later, there was an important Indian village at Blue Island and several trails converged there. Other villages were located near Hegewisch, 95th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, Thornton, South Chicago, Worth, and Palos Park.
Originally the great swamps around Lake Calumet, Wolf Lake, and in the Saganashkee valley west and northwest of Blue Island, furnished homes and food for beaver, otter, muskrats, mink, and vast numbers of waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds. The lakes, rivers and creeks teemed with fish. In all directions from the Blue Island ridge were wet prairies densely covered with tall grasses and wild flowers. Early settlers found an abundance of prairie chicken, deer and other game. Bobcats and prairie wolves apparently were numerous, and there are accounts of lynx, panther, and even bear being killed.
The Indian Boundary Line was the south boundary of a strip 20 miles wide, ceded to the U.S. in 1816 by the Potawatomi, Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, providing a canal route and free travel from Chicago to the Illinois River. This line extends southwest to the Kankakee River. It begins on the shore of Lake Michigan at a point which was 10 miles south of the mouth of the Chicago River. That point is also the mouth of the Calumet River.
Thornton-Blue Island Road was originally part of Hubbard's Trail [Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard] from Chicago to Danville, and the Vincennes Trace to Vincennes, Indiana, on the Wabash River. In 1834 it was made a State Road, marked with milestones. The north end of it survives in modern Chicago as State Street.
Blue Island is one of the oldest towns in Cook County. The first settler, Thomas Courtney, came there in 1834. Norman Rexford came to the "long wood" in 1835 and, in 1836, built a hotel at the south end of the ridge. He was postmaster of Worth P.O.. established there in 1838. In 1860 its name was changed to Blue Island which became the legal name of the village in 1872. Peter Barton came in 1837 and, in 1839, platted a town called Portland. It extended south from Vermont St. to the township line, and from "Wabash Road" (Western Ave.) to Ashland Ave. and the original junction of Stony Creek with the river.
Dedicated Nature Preserve
Good shoreline fishing (Powderhorn and Wolf Lakes)
Overlook with exceptional scenic view
Toboggan slide and slopes for winter coasting.
Calumet Division Headquarters.
Boulder marking site of Indian signal station and camp ground overlooking Chicago Plain eastward and northward.
Exceptional view of Chicago skyline.
Indian Boundary Line.
Thornton-Blue Island Road (Hubbard's Trail)
Model airplane flying field
Boat launching site.
Joe Louis "The Champ" Golf Course
Eggers Grove. One of the few places in Cook County where sassafras trees are native. Notable for shorebirds nesting in the marsh north of Wolf Lake and many others stopping there during migrations.
Wolf Lake State Park and Conservation Area (State of Illinois)
Powderhorn Lake. Excavated to provide earthfill for the Calumet Skyway. Prickly pear cactus grows in the surrounding sandy area
Burnham Woods Golf Course (18 hole).
GOOD MANNERS IN THE OUT-OF-DOORS
Be friendly with the trees, wildflowers and wild creatures.
Be courteous and considerate to other people.
Harm nothing; molest nothing.
Be careful about fire; read and observe the rules.
Place your garbage in a receptacle
Leave the preserves just as you found them.
This page is based on a publication of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois, adapted for the web as a public service by CLONK. This web site is unofficial, and not associated in any way with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. CLONK is not responsible for any errors, either in the original publication or in this web version. The information presented here follows the original Forest Preserve District publication as closely as possible, with minor variations such as choice of typeface and added web links. CLONK cautions that items such as names of public servants and telephone numbers are subject to change! This web version was completed Spring, 2000.
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