Chicago Riverwalk

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The Riverwalk as seen from Upper Wacker Drive looking down at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Chicago Riverwalk is an open, pedestrian waterfront located on the south bank of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago, Illinois. It spans from Lake Shore Drive to Franklin Street. Called the city's "Second Lakefront,"[1] it contains lush green spaces, cafes, retail spaces and is an overall "great place where office workers and families can relax, and a great place to get a bite to eat.”[2]

In conjunction with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), construction of the Riverwalk began in 2001 as an extension of the Wacker Drive reconstruction project. The plan called for four separate districts within the riverwalk: Confluence, Arcade, Civic and Market, all with a specific location and theme in mind.

  • Confluence: Located where the Main, North and South branches of the River intersect. Previously the location of taverns, hotels and convention centers, it is now a major intersection of not only the River but the neighborhoods that border it. This area of the Riverwalk was expanded fifty feet into the river for the installation of park space and pedestrian access to Upper Wacker Drive as well as various amenities located in this area.
  • Arcade: The District spanning east from Franklin to State Street. It is called the "Arcade" because of the architectural detailing that separates the riverfront from the rest of the Wacker Drive.[3]
  • Civic: The District spanning east from Dearborn St. to Michigan Ave. It includes the Chicago Bridgehouse Museum, located at Michigan Ave. and Wacker Dr., and is also the focal point for visitor and tourist activities, primarily for the boat launches (Wendella, Shoreline Cruises etc.). The Trump International Tower and Hotel is also located along this stretch of the Riverwalk, as well as notable landmarks such as the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower.[4]

At State and Wabash Streets where the Riverwalk is at its widest is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, commemorating events that took place during that war. Built in 2005, it is nestled within the Riverwalk and consists of a terraced lawn, a waterfall and a central pool.[6]

On October 8, 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled plans for an addition to the Riverwalk. This portion of the Riverwalk will "expand it another six blocks along Chicago's River from State to Lake streets." [7] These six blocks will also have individual themes attached to them much like the other portions of the walk. They are:

  • The Marina: From State St. to Dearborn. Would include restaurant and public space.
  • The Cove: From Dearborn St. to Clark St. Kayak and rental space.
  • The River Theater: From Clark to LaSalle St.
  • The Swimming Hole: From LaSalle to Wells St. Recreational space.
  • The Jetty: Wells to Franklin St.
  • The Boardwalk From Franklin to Lake St.

Floating gardens, an iconic bridge and fishing piers would aim to create more recreational options for the city's "Second Lakefront," and connect the downtown area.




  1. ^ Kamin, Blair. "Cityscapes: City's second waterfront: Riverwalk improved, but hurdles remain". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "Chicago Riverwalk". City of Chicago. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  3. ^ "Chicago Riverwalk Main Branch Framework Plan". City of Chicago. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  4. ^ "Civic District". City of Chicago. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  5. ^ "Market District". City of Chicago. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  6. ^ "Riverwalk". Blog. A View on Cities. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  7. ^ Balde, Lisa. "Chicago Unveils Riverwalk Expansion Plans". NBC Chicago. Retrieved 8 October 2012. 
  8. ^ "Explore Chicago: Chicago Riverwalk". Retrieved 3 October 2012.