The Skokie River Corridor demonstrates how natural processes and native plants can be used to enhance urban waterways. The Corridor comprises a one-mile-long reach of the Skokie River flowing through the Chicago Botanic Garden and the adjacent 22-acre floodplain and upland.
Once a meandering stream that ran through a large marsh that spanned north of Lake Cook Road and extended south to below the Skokie Lagoons, the Skokie River was turned into a drainage ditch around the turn of the last century. During construction of the Garden, in the 1970s, it was relocated to the Garden’s western perimeter.
In the mid-1990s, the Garden began to transform the Corridor by restoring the floodplain and adjacent upland to natural communities. Like many urban waterways, prior to this restoration effort, turf had been planted along the river. Turf streambanks easily erode over time and the floodplain lacked habitat and pollutant-filtering benefits. Serving as a demonstration site, innovative, vegetative techniques were employed to stabilize the streambanks, planting native wetland and prairie plants in the floodplain and upland. The Corridor now supports 200-plus native plant species, carefully chosen by our ecologists, that withstand the river’s flashy hydrology of flooding and quick draw-down, as well as the Garden’s challenging urban soils.
Visitors can glimpse this display of native prairie grasses and sedges intermix with wildflowers as they walk along the path that parallels the service road on the west side of the Garden; about a 5-minute walk from the Visitor Center.