Little Calumet River
The Little Calumet River flows through several south-side Chicago neighborhoods and 180 years of African American history.
Our Focus on the Little Calumet River
The Little Calumet River region is a priority focus area for Openlands and where we have been working closely with community members and conservation groups for many years. Our involvement includes the creation of the Little Calumet River Conservation Action Plan (CAP), which outlines a framework to improve the health of nature and the quality of life for communities along the six and a half mile corridor of the Little Calumet River from its confluence with the Cal-Sag Channel to the Grand Calumet River. This plan was created in collaboration with the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Field Museum.
This area has been historically fragmented and transformed through farming and industry. The plan identifies priority sites for acquisition, protection, ecological restoration and management, and community connection. Several of these areas within the CAP are owned and managed by the Forest Preserves of Cook County including Beaubien Woods.
The primary conservation strategy for Beaubien Woods is to restore wet prairie and marsh, which would benefit marsh-breeding birds such as bitterns and gallinules. The restoration work includes removing invasive species through controlled burns, clearing invasive brush and trees, and planting pollinator-friendly native plants. Openland’s Arborist Registered Apprentices are involved in clearing invasive plants as part of their arboriculture training. Beaubien Woods is a prime example of what could be done along the Little Calumet River and will have a domino effect on the ecosystem to improve biodiversity, water quality, and people’s access to nature.
The restoration work would also focus on improving access for the community to recreational opportunities on the water and on trails, especially as the African American Heritage Water Trail begins at Beaubien Woods. Improving the ecosystem will make Beaubien Woods a more attractive destination for visitors to enjoy the outdoors and learn more about the history of the region.