The Chicago Riverwalk spans the south bank from Lake Shore Drive to Franklin Street. The concept for Chicago Riverwalk was developed in 1909 when the Mayor at the time called for landowners to create a public recreational area. It hit a snag, because most, if not all, of the riverfront was owned privately. Ninety years later, the plan was bought forth by the mayor again. Then, the Chicago Riverwalk was created with a mandate that developers along the river must have a public walkway along the river. Thus, the Chicago Riverwalk was finally born. About five years would pass before the first quarter mile of walkway would be open to the public. About 28 miles of walkways line the river.
Today, the Chicago Riverwalk is a popular tourist attraction. Various attractions line the river bank, such as cafes, boat cruises, water taxis, bike rentals and tours, and craft vendors. It’s also a great place for locals, such as office workers in the nearby offices, to relax and get a bite to eat during their lunch break.
The long walkway opens up to the widest point at Veterans Memorial Plaza, where a memorial honoring the nation’s Vietnam veterans stands. The names of 2,900 Illinois residents, who died in the war, are listed along with a time line of events during the war. A waterfall fountain completes the memorial. This phrase of the walkway’s development occurred in 2005.
The original length of the Chicago Riverwalk was divided into four themes. They include Confluence, Arcade, Civic and Market. Confluence is where the three branches of the river intersect. Thus, it was named confluence. This large Y-shaped area is where residents can sit at the river’s edge and watch the sunset. There are a few historic buildings lining this area, but most no longer exist. The Arcade section is distinguished with interesting architecture and design. The walkway has cart-based food vendors as well as restaurants and ample seating. Boat launches occur along this part of the river. The Arcade gives way to the The Civic District. This section of the walkway is the primary hub of the entire attraction for tourists. It’s the primary area for boat launches and contains the most attractions, such as the Chicago Bridgehouse Museum and Trump Tower. The last section of the walkway is the Market District. It contains a few restaurants, most notably Cyrano’s, and a bike rental company. A few food vendors are also along this area. The section is buffered by Wacker Drive on one side, which is the end of the promenade.
In 2012, an additional plan for six more blocks of Chicago Riverwalk was unveiled. Each block will have one of the following themes: The Marina (from State to Dearborn), The Cove (Dearborn to Clark), The River Theater (Clark to LaSalle), The Swimming Hole (LaSalle to Wells), The Jetty (Wells to Franklin) and The Boardwalk (Franklin to Lake). These may bring more recreational space, promenades and a recreational water feature. The water feature may come in the form of a fountain or a swimming pool.
The Chicago Riverwalk is one of the most glorious areas of the city with spectacular views, which took nearly a century to develop. The Chicago Riverwalk is a gem, locals and tourists alike should take the time to enjoy.