What is Urban Rivers?

A Chicago-based nonprofit that is installing floating gardens in the Chicago River with the primary goals of: 

  • Providing local wildlife with more natural habitat
  • Improving the physical beauty, as well as the water quality of the river
  • Serving as an economic driver to help the local community/businesses
  • Testing the feasibility of growing edible plants on the river

In June 2017, we installed 1,500 square feet of floating garden in the Chicago River on the east side of Goose Island, along the banks of Whole Foods' Lincoln Park store, and we're currently fundraising for our next 25,000 square feet of floating garden that will be installed in 2018.

What is a floating garden?

  • A man-made structure that rests on the surface of the water, acting as an artificial terrestrial habitat where there otherwise would be none
  • Ours contains native plant species, as well as a handful of experimental crop species, that provide habitat to local wildlife
  • It is also d esigned to encourage the growth of algae and bacteria to clean our waterways

What is it made of?

It is made out of marine grade metal components.

Is this legal?

Yes, we have all the necessary permits and insurance coverage.

What are the benefits?

  • Wildlife Habitat Rehabilitation and Expansion - Fish, ducks, turtles, frogs and countless other species all can significantly benefit from these floating habitat systems, compared to the river's current state of monotonous channelization. Since these gardens contain prairie and shoreline plant species, they're helping increase the river's biodiversity, over and below the water's surface.
  • Beautification and Water Quality - Both these issues go hand-in-hand. Due to sewage contamination, industrial run-off, excessive litter and miles of steel sea-walls and crumbling concrete banks, the river's health has been far from perfect in recent years. With that said, it has slowly been improving though and our gardens will only accelerate that process – the plants help clean the water through the process of phytoremediation (roots remove excess nutrients and harmful toxins from the water), while also hiding the river's industrial past, and our team consistently removes visible trash from the surrounding area.
  • Education - a floating riverbank in the heart of Chicago will open up opportunities to connect local learners to their local waterway in new and creative ways. 
  • The Local Economy – Improving the rivers quality and physical beauty will only attract more people to it. This will benefit river-based businesses, river-front properties, tourism and therefore, Chicago's economy as a whole.
  • Urban River Agriculture – Although we're currently testing the feasibility of growing edible plants on the river, we see tremendous potential here. We're trying to produce healthy, locally and sustainably grown food, while simultaneously improving the water's quality. 

Can I stand on it?

You cannot stand on it, it is intended for wildlife use only. It can support the weight of plants and wildlife, but not humans.  

How do you make sure it doesn't float away?

It is secured to the riverbank and river-bottom by an anchoring system that uses concrete screws and thick metal wiring.

How do you ensure it will not sink and become a part of the problem?

Our floating garden is made of marine-grade, buoyant materials that will not sink. Even in the off-chance that one module malfunctioned, it would be supported by all the surrounding modules and would continue to float just fine.

Where is it located?

In the Chicago River on the east side of Goose Island, along the banks of Whole Foods' Lincoln Park store (Kingsbury and North Ave).

Will it be expanded to multiple locations?

We plan to expand our current 1,500 square feet by an additional 25,000 square feet in 2018, with an ultimate goal of a 1/2 mile long river-based sanctuary and park in the North Branch of the Chicago River. We're also actively discussing the installation of new gardens in different sections of the Chicago River, as well as several different cities around the world.

Will I be able to launch my kayak or boat from it?

Currently, not from our location. There is a dock located at Kayak Chicago, on North Ave, about ¼ mile away.