The Early Years: A Pristine Wilderness and Recreational Destination

       Chicago's Southeast Side, which is part of the Calumet region, is located at the southern tip of Lake Michigan near the Illinois and Indiana border. It did not become part of the city of Chicago until 1889, when the Village of Hyde Park was incorporated into Chicago in anticipation of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. It had, however, served as a destination for Native Americans and Chicagoans who took advantage of the natural features of the marshes, forests and prairies in the area. 

Calumet Landscape 
Thousands and thousands of years ago, the Calumet region was slowly developing. Having been covered by the prehistoric Lake Chicago, this area was once under over sixty feet of water. Slowly, as the lake receded, the Calumet area was uncovered. What was left were remnant beaches, marshes, moraines, small ponds, and slow moving rivers in northwestern Indiana and northeastern Illinois.

As the Calumet region began to stabilize, the natural communities changed from savannas and sand prairies to tall grass prairie. The area's geology, along with deciduous forests, boreal remnants, and tall grassland made the Calumet region one of the most diverse in the country. The Grand Calumet River and the Little Calumet River both started in Indiana and flowed into Illinois, meeting the Calumet River and discharging into Lake Michigan. All of the rivers were surrounded by extensive wetlands and shallow lakes.

In the Calumet section of the Lake Plain, a series of shallow lakes was captured by sand spits, as Lake Chicago receded. While the Calumet region was settled, the natural communities of the strand plain formed a transition from sand savanna and sand prairie associated with the dune region in the east to tallgrass prairie in the west. The area's geological history, combined with the convergence of the three major biomes (eastern deciduous forests, boreal remnants, and tall grassland), resulted in one of the most biotically diverse regions in the country. 

The decrease in the levels of Wolf and Berry Lakes formed Hyde and Deer Lakes between 1872 and 1881. The lowering of the water levels uncovered some of the sand ridges that were underwater previously, creating Hyde Lake in what was the western part of Wolf Lake and Deer Lake in what was the western part of Berry Lake. Hyde Lake and Deer Lake are now gone due to being filled in. Only small portions of Lake George in Indiana remain. Much of Lake Calumet has been filled in, other parts dredged for the International Port, and other parts have been reconfigured. Lake Calumet once had extensive wetlands around it that stretched to the Calumet River. Remnants of these wetlands remain today. The map below shows Hyde Lake, west of Wolf Lake, which no longer exists, having been filled in. It also shows Deer Lake in Indiana, now filled in and Lake George in Indiana which only has a small portion of its original area remaining. 


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Lake Calumet Area 1881