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Back You are here: Home Reports from Real Life Oh, The Things We've Seen! Travel Writing Six's Top 6 Vacation Destinations: Bubbly Creek
Monday, 15 November 2010 02:41

Six's Top 6 Vacation Destinations: Bubbly Creek

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 Number Six:

Bubbly Creek, Chicago

In the early 19th and 20th centuries, Chicago was a rapidly expanding city rife with stockyards and meat packing plants. For close to a hundred years the Union Stock Yards in central Illinois functioned as the meat packing capital of the US, helping establish Chicago as "the hog butchering capital of the world."



 While this conjures overwhelming notions of romance and adventure in a city that reeks of bacon grease, you might want to think twice before packing up the kids for the holidays. A side effect of being one of the most successful meat processing cities in the US happens to be producing incredible amounts of animal waste. And for hundreds of years, where did most of that animal waste go? Most stockyards decided ingeniously to use the sewage system that was implemented naturally; The South Fork of the Chicago river. 

While Bubbly Creek sounds like a place your great granddad probably reminisced about fishing in his day, in reality it's more like something Eli Roth summoned from the bowels of a nightmare. Largely stagnant, the bubbles in bubbly creek aren't produced by fresh, running currents but by the incredible quantities of blood and animal entrails settled in the sediment and surrounding wetlands of the entire fork of the Chicago River. The insane amounts of methane gases and hydrogen sulfide gases created during the decomposition of rotting flesh transformed the creek from a stagnant river into a fart-smelling blood Jacuzzi from Hell. 


In Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle, Bubbly Creek is described with all the whimsy of a Kinkade painting:

"One long arm of it is blind, and the filth stays there forever and a day. The grease and chemicals that are poured into it undergo all sorts of strange transformations ... Bubbles of carbonic gas will rise to the surface and burst, and make rings two or three feet wide. Here and there the grease and filth have caked solid, and the creek looks like a bed of lava; chickens walk about on it, feeding, and many times an unwary stranger has started to stroll across, and vanished temporarily. The packers used to leave the creek that way, till every now and then the surface would catch on fire and burn furiously, and the fire department would have to come and put it out. ... The banks of "Bubbly Creek" are plastered thick with hairs, and this also the packers gather and clean."

If riverbanks plastered thick with hairs isn't the perfect picture postcard to send back home, I don't know what is. 

Due to the stagnation Bubbly Creek still remains fetid and rancid one hundred years later. The Chicago Journal recently described the river's bloodstench as a "plague on the surrounding area."

Attempts to plan a method of successfully disinfecting the sewage from the area have proven to be unsuccessful.

“This is simple,” said Henry Henderson, midwest director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group. “Human excrement — intestinal miasma — dumped into a major city’s river is dumb, bad, stupid. Knock it off.”

Throughout the last decade, attempts to reoxygenate this half of the Chicago river have been met with limited success due to the creeks...irregularities. 


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Last modified on Thursday, 15 March 2012 18:31

Six is a creep. She has no biography and only knows two jokes.

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