First ever stand up paddle trip along “Bubbly Creek” in Chicago
Stand up paddle boarding has allowed me to travel to some incredible places and better yet, has introduced me to some incredible people. When I prepared to Stand up paddle the Calumet River in Chicago, I met a great musician, artist and historian by the name of Acie Cargill who had written a poignant song about that river. When I made my plan to paddle “Bubbly Creek” my first thoughts were to ask Acie if he would write a song about this historic waterway that still bubbles today due to animal waste and parts dumped over a century ago. He said he would give it a try and 24 hours later he recorded the song: “Bubbly Creek, Chicago” I am very proud to have this song as the soundtrack to this first ever stand up paddle of Bubbly Creek.
I found out about Bubbly Creek while reading Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” of which I quote below concerning this nightmare of a river:
“Bubbly Creek” is an arm of the Chicago River, and forms the southern boundary of the Union Stock Yards; all the drainage of the square mile of packing-houses empties into it, so that it is really a great open sewer a hundred or two feet wide. 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, which are the cause of its name; it is constantly in motion, as if huge fish were feeding in it, or great leviathans disporting themselves in its depths. 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. Once, however, an ingenious stranger came and started to gather this filth in scows, to make lard out of; then the packers took the cue, and got out an injunction to stop him, and afterwards gathered it themselves. The banks of “Bubbly Creek” are plastered thick with hairs, and this also the packers gather and clean. ”
—Upton Sinclair, The Jungle