Margaret Frisbie: The Chicago River, Friends to the Rescue!

In this episode–the 2nd in a mini-series titled “New Life for America’s Big City Rivers”–we discover The Chicago River with Margaret Frisbie, executive director of  Friends of the Chicago River. 

In 1673, indigenous people showed French explorers where they could portage their canoes from Lake Michigan into the Mississippi watershed with just a one-and-a-half mile carry. The spot became known as the Chicago Portage and the trade and travel route ultimately gave rise to the Chicago Metropolitan Area of today.  

Through conversation with Margaret Frisbie, we learn the history of the Chicago River and its terrible state of pollution in 1979, the year that Friends of the Chicago River was formed. We learn that Friends’ founders could see past the sewage and create a vision for a healthy river system cherished by the community.  Friends has been working to improve the health of the Chicago River for the benefit of people, plants and animals; and by doing so, has laid the foundation for the river to be a beautiful, continuous, and easily accessible corridor of open space in the Chicago region.

We learn about Friends work on the Chicago River in three program areas, including the Chicago River Schools Network, providing K-12 teachers the training and personalized assistance they need to immerse their students in the turbulent history, evolving ecology, and improving health of the Chicago River.  They empower schools with excellent tools for hands-on scientific experimentation, water quality monitoring, art/writing projects, and ecological restoration for students of all ages.

Margaret’s passion for paddling, wildlife, and community is reconnecting people to the Chicago River, resulting in a healthier ecosystem that’s become central to the region’s quality of life. 

For additional information and to support Margaret’s work, go to Friends of the Chicago River. Friends also has a podcast, “Inside, Out & About,” created to take listeners on a series of expeditions along the Chicago River system where beauty and nature abound.

We’re excited to bring Margaret’s story to you, thanks for listening.  For more information about our episodes, please visit RiverSpeak Podcast

All rivers have stories that ripple. 

I’m Dave Koehler.  Be well, and do good work.