Some parts of northern Wisconsin and Michigan are rugged landscapes dominated by boulders, gravel, and sand. These popular vacation areas have rivers and streams that are swift-flowing and appear clear, cool, and inviting.
But here in northern Illinois, our land surface is dominated by flat topography and fertile soils. Over the years as agriculture and urban development in the Chicago region progressed, the naturally slow and meandering stream flows were consolidated into faster-moving channels. The swifter currents erode soil along the riverbank and off the river bottom, and so the water isn’t always crystal-clear.
Yet despite these suspended soil particles, the river can still be “safe” and clean for many forms of recreation, and these waterways continue to function as important plant and animal habitat.