The South Branch of the Chicago River
From roughly 1885-1972, the Chicago Stockyards employed 40,000 people, processed nine million animals a year and pumped in 50,000 gallons of water a day from the South Branch of the Chicago River. Even though they used the animal’s hooves, eyes, nose, ears, small bones and testicles (“everything but the squeal”) for those tasty hotdogs, they still dumped a good portion of the waste into the South Branch of the Chicago River. Due to the rotting animal matter, which is still decomposing decades after the stockyards have closed, the water often “bubbles” when the bottom is stirred. Locals call it “bubbly creek.” Yet on June 20, 2008, an eerie, swampy creature patrolled the murky, cauldron-like waters of the South Branch of the Chicago River. It was the great Chicago alligator. Experts say that it was probably in the water for about a week, snacking on fish and, hopefully, rats, when bystanders working at Midland Metal spotted a five-foot long, forty-five pound alligator. They immediately called Animal Control, and the scaly swimming lizard was rounded up and placed into a truck. Some talked about the potential dangers the alligator may have posed, possibly swallowing a dog, cat or even a small child playing along the riverbank. Since it was a South Sider, it was given the name White Sox. Animal Control says they shipped the “gator” to a nature preserve in Florida, but Bubbly Creek observers still talk about just how at home the alligator seemed. “It was just swimming, swimming around like it was its normal habitat,” one local worker said. Yes, if there is a best place in Chicago where an alligator could find happiness, it would be Bubbly Creek.
Best of Chicago 2008