The Tale of Bubbly Creek

The Tale of Bubbly Creek

With a name like “Bubbly Creek,” a charming rural setting might be brought to mind, water swirling and gurgling pleasantly beside verdant green banks. Unfortunately, Bubbly Creek is no such pleasant locale but it’s history in the city of Chicago still makes it a place worth visiting.

An Unfortunate History

Bubbly Creek

Bubbly Creek is the nickname of a south section of the Chicago River, marking the boundary between the Bridgeport and McKinley Park neighborhoods. It is found at the famous former location of the Chicago meat packing plants, including the Union Stock Yards. So how did Bubbly Creek get its name? For decades the meat packers dumped waste from their processing into the river right at its fork. The blood and entrails that lay at the bottom began to decompose, emitting methane and hydrogen sulfide gases which would bubble to the surface. Bubbly Creek was born.

Legendary in Literature

Upton Sinclair is famous for his work The Jungle that exposed the reality of the meat packing industry as it functioned in Chicago. Bubbly Creek was included in his account, cementing its name and remembrance in this dark chapter of Chicago’s history.

“Bubbly Creek” is an arm of the Chicago River, and forms the southern boundary of the Union Stock Yards; all the drainage of the square mile of packing-houses empties into it, so that it is really a great open sewer a hundred or two feet wide. One long arm of it is blind, and the filth stays there forever and a day. The grease and chemicals that are poured into it undergo all sorts of strange transformations, which are the cause of its name; it is constantly in motion, as if huge fish were feeding in it, or great leviathans disporting themselves in its depths. Bubbles of carbonic gas will rise to the surface and burst, and make rings two or three feet wide.
-Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

A Positive Future?

There have been initiatives in the past to remediate the polluted section of the river, and to some extent they have been successful in at least decreasing the smell it emits. In 2007 the City of Chicago was considering further restorative measures, at an estimated cost of $2.65 million. When contamination was found in the creek’s sediment in 2015, and the cost of the restoration rose to $15.4 million, the project was put on hold until further notice.

Shoreline Sightseeing: Contact Us Today!

To learn more about Chicago’s amazing history, join Shoreline Sightseeing for one of their Chicago Architectural Boat Cruises or Architectural Tours today. You can view our schedule here, and then contact us at (312) 222-9328 to register for an event today. Don’t forget to stop by Bubbly Creek – and bring a copy of The Jungle along with you to remember the history.