Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Interpretive Digital Essay : Water in Chicago
Essay: People and the Port
Photo Essays:
Solitary Lives
City of Bridges
Chicago Harbors
Essay: Using the Chicago River
Photo Essays:
Goose Island
Indiana Dunes
Essay: Sanitation in Chicago
Photo Essays:
The Sanitary and Ship Canal
Water-Related Epidemics
Essay: Water and Urban Life
Photo Essays:
Houses and Water
Shoreline Development
Growing Up Along Water
Constructing the Sanitary and Ship Canal

Dam at Lockport

While most of the work on the Sanitary and Ship Canal involved construction of the main channel, the project also included building 13 bridges, relocating the DesPlaines River and constructing a controlling works at the terminal at Lockport. The controlling works released water from the main channel (which came from the south branch of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan beyond) through a dam. Chief Engineer Isham Randolph described this work with:

We have fitted mighty valves of steel

A thwart our giant groove.


The turning of a sea capstain,

The winding of a chain,

Will hold in thrall this torrent

Or turn it loose again

Bear Trap Dam, Lockport, September 1896

The dam at Lockport was called the Bear Trap Dam because it resembled the jams of a bear trap. Debris and ice were stopped by the dam, but lowering the dam allowed all of this to pass downstream.

See also: Lockport

Before and After Water Released into the Main Channel at the Bear Trap Dam, Lockport, 1897, and, 1900

Construction of the dam took place before water was released into the channel. The dam looked quite different before and after water was released into the main channel, as seen here, first in July 1897 and then in January 1900.

See also: Water