Hello Backyard Geographers!
My name is Julie Watkins and I am the Geographic Society of Chicago’s 2019-2020 intern! Today I’d like to share with you our upcoming event, BioBlitz Big Marsh. For those that are unfamiliar, a BioBlitz is defined as “an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area.”¹ This is the GSC’s second time doing a BioBlitz at Big Marsh with the intention of logging the area’s plants and animals via the free app, iNaturalist. This event is free and open to all! Please be sure to RSVP “Going” on the Facebook event. We look forward to seeing you on September 14th! Facebook event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/348660959357508/
- September 14th
- 10am-1pm (Friends of Big Marsh celebration 2pm-6pm)
- Big Marsh, 11599 South Stony Island Ave, Chicago, IL 60617
A Brief History of Big Marsh
Big Marsh can be found in the Calumet Area Reserve on the Southeast side of Chicago. As Chicago’s 564th park, Big Marsh earned its designation as a park in 2016 after being used as an industrial site in the late 1800s.² Laden with nine steel mills, this industrial site turned the wild and beautiful marshland into a wasteland filled with slag.³ The Chicago Park District acquired all 278 acres of Big Marsh in 2011, and Friends of Big Marsh has been working with the Chicago Park District ever since to create a site of eco-recreation.
An eco-recreation site is a site dedicated to habitat restoration as well as leisure and recreation for neighboring communities. For example, Big Marsh’s successful bike park, modeled after Valmont Bike Park in Colorado, is built atop remaining slag from the steel mills.³ Other popular activities to engage in at Big Marsh are hiking, birdwatching, and fishing. Called a “mecca of biodiversity” by Lauren Umek, project manager at Chicago Park District’s Department of Cultural and Natural Resources,³ Big Marsh is a prime spot for a BioBlitz, and certainly sets the bar high for other eco-recreation sites.
I hope you enjoyed this brief history of Big Marsh, and I look forward to sharing more events, blog posts, seminars, Travelogues, and the like with you all soon!
 “BioBlitz.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 July 2019,
 “Big Marsh Park (Park No. 564).” Chicago Park District, Chicago Park District, 2014,
 Schulman, Ben. “How Chicago Turned an Industrial Waste Site Into a Nature-Loving
Cyclist’s Paradise.” CityLab, 27 July 2016, www.citylab.com/design/2016/07/how-chicago-turned-an-industrial-waste-site-into-a-nature-lovers-and-cyclists-paradise/492665/.