A River Through Illinois, an innovative collaboration by journalist Gary Marx and award-winning photographer Daniel Overturf, carries readers down the 330-mile Illinois Waterway, from the urban landscape of Chicago to the state’s most rural areas. Combining literary impressions, history, and personal narrative with stunning color photographs, this remarkable book transports readers to places most have never been: three hundred feet below the city of Chicago in a TARP pump station, above the Illinois River in a lift-bridge operator’s hut, in the wheelhouse of a towboat pushing twenty thousand tons.
The story of the river is told by the people who live along the waterway’s banks and work its course, who rely on it for their livelihoods, their recreation, and their spiritual sustenance. More than one hundred original color photographs and dozens of conversations with waterway residents, workers, and visitors capture the essence of the waterway, exposing its course and uncovering its past.
Traveling through the Illinois & Michigan Canal, Florence, Hardin, Lemont, and Chicago, readers discover a connection to a sense of place and to the early inhabitants of the state. Bar crews, lockmasters, engineers, and those whose memories stretch to the days of steamboats offer their views on the evolution and navigational importance of the waterway.
Readers encounter such places as Pekin, LaGrange, Peru, and Joliet as a towboat works its way up the waterway that represents commerce and jobs, the challenge of living and working away from home, and following dreams.
The book also introduces Chicago fishermen and wastewater engineers, a city bridge machinist and a marine police officer, who offer insights aboard a patrol boat on the Chicago River, inside a bascule bridge, and in a sailboat marina, revealing an engineering marvel upstream that creates an environmental nightmare downstream.
From Mud Creek to Peoria Lakes, a biologist, an ecologist, and a hydrologist consider the edge of the watershed Meredosia, Chandlerville, Henry, the Kankakee River and its tributaries and discuss the changing nature of the river, including new threats such as sedimentation, and the loss of habitat. Hunters, commercial fishermen, and bridge tenders share their stories that demonstrate resiliency in the face of great change.
A River Through Illinois represents a unique blend of portraits, landscapes, panoramic 360-degree photographs, and personal narratives that create a cast of characters, including the river itself, who give voice to the life of this important waterway.