Urban Rivers map

We Are Urban Rivers

Our mission is to transform urban waterways into urban wildlife sanctuaries. We are bringing back habitat for native wildlife by building artificial floating gardens in historically industrialized sections of the Chicago River. These gardens are full of native wetland and prairie plants that grow hydroponically down through the garden modules into the water – providing quality habitat both above and below the water’s surface. 

Our main project is the Wild Mile, a floating eco-park off the east-side of Goose Island in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. The park consists of floating gardens with public boardwalks and a kayak launch dock in the heart of the city. The Wild Mile provides a unique, flexible access point to the Chicago River, and has created a place where folks can gather right on the river itself. People of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities are now able to explore and experience the gardens and the life teeming within them up close — boats not required, though they are certainly welcome! The park is open year round for all to enjoy.

The Wild Mile has also opened up the Chicago River as an educational resource like never before. With our boardwalk, we are able to take entire classrooms out to experience the Chicago River up close and personal. In 2022, we hosted 288 students for field trips from Chicago Public Schools, local charter schools, and other educational organizations to learn about topics like science, plants, wildlife, water, and the impact their actions can have on their local ecosystems.

Programming on the Wild Mile isn’t just for students. We regularly host public events and volunteer workdays. For example, we host our Wild Mile Summer Workshop Series every Thursday evening in June through September. Together with community partners, these workshops cover skills and knowledge in science, art, trades, and more to connect people with the Chicago River in diverse ways. We have had workshops featuring gardening, yoga, drawing, bat research, birding, and so much more.

One of our favorite ways to connect people with the Chicago River is through paddling. The Wild Mile canal is full of greenery and closed to large boat traffic, so it is a beautiful, peaceful place for paddlers of all skill levels. With our public launch dock, anyone with a small boat can easily access this community resource. Don’t have your own boat? No problem! To get more people out on the water, we host Community Kayak Days in partnership with REI. We provide free lessons and equipment so that people who may not have been able to kayak before can get out and explore their city in a new way. Additionally, both REI and the Shedd Aquarium host guided eco-kayak tours of the Wild Mile in the summer.
At the Wild Mile, there are so many ways to explore and enjoy all the Chicago River has to offer. Learn more about all the ways you can visit and get involved with us at www.urbanriv.org