In March of each year, as dear old St. Patrick has his day, as iron-on t-shirt graphics of shamrocks appear and bros take a half-day off work to start drinking in the early afternoon, the Chicago River is dyed a kelly green so brilliant that people without disposables or digitals take low resolution photos with their cell phone cameras.
Perhaps more brialliant, however, is the environmentally friendly vegetable dye that is used in lieu of the formally used oil-based dye that brought many of the river’s fish floating to the top, side up. Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable would have been worried to see his river turn bright green and then for the next week, fade to a puke. Being the first European settler to call Chicago home, du Sable set up his abode at the mouth of the Chicago River, the joint between it and Lake Michigan. Considered by many to be the father of Chicago, du Sable and his Native American counterparts would be confused by the current elaborate system of locks used to reverse the flow of the river, directing it away, instead of toward, Lake Michigan. At the turn of the 20th century, industrial revolutionaries devised a way to reverse the flow of the then known-as “stinking river,” so that the massive amount of unchecked sewage and pollution would not flow directly into the city’s fresh water source.
The Chicago River, sewage packed and dyed green, now flows briskly into the Des Plaines River, into the Mississippi and finally, down to the Gulf of Mexico.