Watershed Profile
The Lower Des Plaines the Basin has been the scene of nationally significant and recognized nature preservation projects including prairie and savanna restoration in Palos and the country's first National Heritage Corridor. The role is fitting because in times past the Des Plaines valley's barge and land traffic were the economic lifelines shaping Chicago as America's first major industrial metropolis. And for thousands of years before that, the basin was an important transportation corridor for Native Americans, a gateway between the North Woods and the Gulf of Mexico.

Description
The Lower Des Plaines watershed extends from north central Cook County down through eastern DuPage County and western Cook County into northern Will County. Major waterways include the Lower Des Plaines River (from the point where the Salt Creek joins it near the Brookfield Zoo), Salt Creek, and portions of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Calumet-Sag Channel. The 357-square-mile area unites some of Illinois' most affluent suburbs and historically important industrial towns. The region includes some outstanding scenery and geological features such as seeps, ponds and hills formed by glaciers, and dolomite cliffs and canyons eroded into ancient Silurian dolomite more than 400 million years old.

Approximately 10,633 acres of wetlands remain in the area, about 21 % of the presettlement amount. Disappearing with the wetlands were the nesting areas of now rare bird species such as the pied-billed grebe, the American bittern and least bittern, the black-crowned night-heron and yellow-crowned night-heron, the northern harrier, king rail, common moorhen, black tern, and yellow­headed blackbird. Despite rapid development, there are still some 7,500 acres of non­forested wetlands in the basin, includ­ing notable marshes and sloughs in the Palos Preserves, in forest preserves in the Schaumburg-Elk Grove Village area, and at Campbell Slough near Addison.Sixteen amphibian and 22 reptile species are known or likely to occur here, 39% and 37% of the state's amphibian and reptile species, respectively. These include the state endangered spotted turtle and Blanding's turtle as well as the state threatened Kirtland's snake. There are 10 state-threatened, 15 state-endangered, three federally threatened, and one federally endangered plant species in the valley. Most of these plants live in prairie and wetland habitats. A dozen high-quality natural sites, totaling some 516 acres, have been identified in the basin.

Detailed Profile of the Lower Des Plaines Watershed
History

The landscape of the Lower Des Plaines basin, relatively new in terms of geologic time, was formed by the last glacial advance that ended about 13,000 years ago. The region includes some outstanding scenery and geological features such as seeps, ponds and hills formed by glaciers, and dolomite cliffs and canyons eroded into ancient Silurian dolomite more than 400 million years old.

The eastern part of the Lower Des Plaines region includes part of the flat basin of ancient Lake Chicago and, to the west of that, closely grouped moraines (ridges formed by glacial action). In the western portion, the moraines were dissected by the rivers of water overflowing from lakes formed by melting glaciers. The northern third of the basin features broader upland areas, level between tributaries and somewhat poorly drained. Historically these featured farmland, but their latest crops are subdivisions and strip malls.

In times past, the Des Plaines valley's barge and land traffic were the economic lifelines shaping Chicago as America's first major industrial metropolis. And for thousands of years before that, the basin was an important transportation corridor for Native Americans, a gateway between the North Woods and the Gulf of Mexico.
Today

Human development now covers two-thirds of the area's surface. Pre ­glacial bedrock supplied the material for this growing metropolis. The area is famous for its old limestone buildings and also supplied the stone for Chicago landmarks such as the Water Tower. The basin's one million residents comprise 9% of the state's population and at least one of every ten employed Illinoisans works here.

Current residents are looking at the Lower Des Plaines basin and at their place in it differently from previous generations. They see what makes the area distinctive, and have set about trying to save those special features.
 
Subwatersheds
Hickory Creek
Long Run Creek
Salt Creek
Map of Subwatersheds
 
Other Features
Hines Emerald Dragonfly
 
Palos Restoration
 
Strategic Subwatershed Indentification Process/SSIP