Friends of the Chicago River

Making the Chicago River one of the world's greatest metropolitan rivers.

Friends of the Chicago River
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From the Executive Director

Since 1979, Friends has been working to improve the health of the Chicago River system for the benefit of people, plants and animals; and by doing so, has laid the foundation for the river to be a beautiful, continuous, and easily accessible corridor of open space in the Chicago region.

Our work spans the entire 156-mile Chicago River system and its surrounding watershed. We focus on a greener river with healthy habitat, an accessible river that people can use and enjoy, and a river cared for by a broad group of supporters.

Margaret Frisbie

Friends of the Chicago River

What we do

Program 1

Education & Outreach


Our Education and Outreach programs cultivate awareness and stewardship. We believe a broad base of popular support for the Chicago River is essential to the long-term success of efforts to improve it.

Program 2

Public Policy & Planning


We focus on research and policy initiatives, informing elected officials, and partnering with key agencies to help shape policies that have a systematic long-term impact on the river’s health. Our planning committee reviews river edge developments to ensure river sensitive design. And our Clean Water Initiatives improve water quality for people and for wildlife.

Program 3

On-the-Ground Projects


Friends’ On-the-Ground projects physically improve the health of the Chicago and Calumet River system. These projects provide healthy habitat, restore the river’s health and cultivate community spirit.

Friends of the Chicago River

Key Facts and Figures


Annual Budget
Year ended June 2016
Program Spend
Fundraising Spend
Management Spend
Executive Director
Margaret Frisbie
Chicago, IL
# Employees
# Volunteers


Latest posts by Friends of the Chicago River

@friendsofthechicagoriver Thanks to McDermott Will & Emery for the use of your amazing conference floor in Chicago for our annual Chicago River Summit. The focus of the summit was on creating a blue/green corridor for the Chicago River system but these beautiful skyline views had us a little distracted! #chicagoriver #rivers #mcdermottwillemery @mcdermott444riverpoint

4 hours ago

@friendsofthechicagoriver Just waiting on a friend...oh, here he comes now...see ya! #chicagoriver #rivers #ducks #chicago #habitat

2 days ago

@friendsofthechicagoriver #chicagoriver duck with 6 pack stuck on his neck hasn’t been seen in a week. But the incident has prompted the neighborhood to organize a river clean up. Oh, and he also has a name: Ringo. #losethelitter Read all about it on @blockclubchi at #rivers #ducks #pollution #cleanwater

2 days ago

@friendsofthechicagoriver Put a little spring into your mid-March: flowers from @flowersfordreams. We're their charity of the month and get a percentage of sales...Locally sourced flowers from woke folks! Free city delivery, too! #chicagoriver #rivers #charity #environment #fundraising #flowers

3 days ago

@friendsofthechicagoriver Nice story from the @chicagotribune today on the financial benefits of a healthy Chicago River system. A blue/green corridor approach would have an enormous financial payoff as well as an environmental one. Read more at plus link to Trib piece by Patrick M. O’Connell

6 days ago

@friendsofthechicagoriver Beth White of @houstonparksboard taking some successful blue/green corridor approaches to the #chicagoriversummit. Some terrific ideas gleaned from #bayougreenways

6 days ago

@friendsofthechicagoriver #chicagoriversummit speaker Matthew Winden from @uwwhitewater talking about the economic value of a blue/green corridor along the #chicagoriver system. More at

6 days ago

@friendsofthechicagoriver Thanks to @lincolnparkzoo Urban Wildlife Institute’s Liza Lehrer for her fascinating talk on how blue/green corridors help wildlife move through urban areas and help their survival rates. #chicagoriversummit #chicagoriver #rivers

6 days ago

@friendsofthechicagoriver Good turnout for #ChicagoRiverSummit. Welcome @mwrd_of_greater_chicago commissioners!

1 week ago

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Chicago Tribune, March 16 2019

Creating corridor of natural habitats along Chicago River could create jobs, reduce flooding and pollution, study says

A new report commissioned by Friends of the Chicago River says the development of an environmentally friendly “blue-green corridor” along the river system in northeastern Illinois would create $192 million in annual economic benefits, in addition to boosting wildlife, water quality and recreational opportunities.

The study, released Thursday during the river group’s annual summit, says creating an interconnected passageway of natural habitats along the Chicago River system will support more than 1,600 jobs annually while helping to reduce flooding, pollution and the urban heat island effect. This type of development, which has been implemented along waterways in cities such as Houston, Cleveland, San Antonio and Washington, also provides more chances for city residents to access the river and the adjacent land for walking, bicycling, kayaking or simply enjoying the natural habitat.

In the Fund

Greener Chicago

In the past, the Chicago River was used as a sewage canal, a shipping canal and, perhaps most famously, a dumping ground for the Union Stockyards. The Great Lakes near the city suffers from elevated pollution levels. Proper conservation and protection are required to protect the natural ecosystems across our region.