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The Des Plaines River is a river that flows southward for 150 miles (241 km) through southern Wisconsinmarker and northern Illinoismarker in the U.S.marker Midwest, eventually meeting the Kankakee River west of Channahonmarker to form the Illinois River, a tributary of the Mississippi River. Des Plaines is Frenchmarker for "of the plains" or "of the prairie", but it is pronounced phonetically by locals (only the last 'e' is silent), rather than according to the French pronunciation.

The river provided a transportation route and portage for native Americans, who revealed to early explorers how to traverse waterways of the Des Plaines watershed to travel from Lake Michiganmarker to the Mississippi Valley. The river's name derives from the period of Frenchmarker exploration and colonization in the New World.

The bodies of several of serial killer John Wayne Gacy's victims were found in the river.

Course and character

The slow-moving Des Plaines River rises in southern Wisconsinmarker just west of Kenoshamarker and flows southward primarily through marshland as it crosses into Illinoismarker. The river turns to the west and flows through woodland forest preserve districts in Lake Countymarker and Cook Countymarker (and through the city of Des Plainesmarker), northwest of Chicagomarker. There are numerous small fixed dams on the river starting in central Lake County and continuing through Cook County. Eventually, the river turns to the southwest and joins with the Sanitary and Ship Canal in Lockportmarker before flowing through the city of Jolietmarker.

In the heavily industrialized area around Joliet, dams control the river. Just west of Joliet, the Des Plaines converges with the Kankakee River to form the Illinois River.

Parts of the Des Plaines River preserved in a mostly natural state are used for conservation and recreation, while substantially altered sections serve as an important industrial waterway and drainage channel.

The original course of the riverbed was moved to the west at the town of Lockport during the construction of the Sanitary and Ship Canal in 1905.

According to Chicago Wilderness Magazine, as the Des Plaines River runs through four Illinois counties, it "changes from prairie creek to a suburban stream, to a large urbanized river, to a major industrial waterway."

Sections of the river in Lake County and Cook County Forest Preserve districts in Illinois create "a nearly continuous greenway though all of Lake County and the northern section of Cook County." While canoe launching ramps are available, "The lack of ramps for trailered-boats makes this long river a quiet, family-friendly river." This greenway also supports the Des Plaines River Trail, a multi-use trail that roughly follows the course of the Des Plaines River through Lake County and into Cook County.

Des Plaines River Bridge

Des Plaines River in Joliet, IL

Des Plaines River Bridge in Joliet, IL

The Des Plaines River Bridge in Jolietmarker is a cantilever bridge that is six lanes wide—three lanes traveling eastbound and westbound. The bridge is signed as part of Interstate 80.

The bridge is located on the south side of Joliet, and connects U.S. Highway 6 and U.S. Highway 52/Illinois Route 53.

Flood control projects

A modern flood control study report stated that flooding on the Des Plaines River has caused significant damage and economic impacts. The greatest recorded flood, in September 1986 caused an estimated $35 million in damage to 10,000 dwellings and 263 business and industrial sites. A Phase I flood control Project was authorized under the Water Resources Development Act of 1999. Project features include levee, dam, and reservoir expansion at a total cost of $50.5 million (in 2002). A project including a deep tunnel is under construction also, planned to be completed by 2011.

On August 24, 2007, the river flooded by over 9 feet.On September 14, 2008, the river flooded after receiving over of rain fall over two days.


  1. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
  2. Chicago Wilderness Magazine (online) --
  3. Upper Des Plaines River and Tributaries Projects and Feasibility Study, Northwest Municipal Conference (
  4.,0,1775422.story Chicago Tribute August 25, 2007

See also

External links

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