When city rivers get wild

How a floating wetland in the middle of the Chicago River has put nature and cleaner water back on the map for city residents

June 13, 2024
A great blue heron standing in body of water and tall grasses
In the epoch of the Anthropocene and concrete jungles, organizations nationwide are mimicking Mother Nature to restore balanced ecosystems to the country's most urban hubs. [Credit: Tyler Butler | Unsplash CC0 1.0]

It’s no secret that rivers winding through major cities have been reshaped by human hands. Where wildlife and marshes once existed, gray sidewalks and bleak straight-lined tributaries have blossomed.

Now, some cities are implementing floating wetlands — native plant life on a body of biodegradable materials that bobs on top of the water — to address a budding desire to see animals and greenery return to their rivers. 

In this podcast episode, Jenaye Johnson speaks with scientists and community members in Chicago about the Wild Mile — the city’s biggest floating wetland to date. Join her as she winds down the Chicago River, explores the wetlands and discusses the future of new animal habitats and clean water in our urban spaces.

You can also listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher


“Glue&Glia” by Rah Hite | CC BY 4.0

“Floating Wetlands” by Rah Hite | CC BY 4.0

Lo Margin” by Blue Dot Sessions | CC BY-NC 4.0

The Maison” by Blue Dot Sessions | CC BY-NC 4.0

About the Author

Jenaye Johnson

Jenaye Johnson is a freelance multimedia journalist who reports on the environment, community justice, sociocultural movements, urban development, and how creativity and science intertwine to provide powerful solutions. She is based on the East Coast and prioritizes using her reportage to shine a fresh perspective on marginalized voices and undercovered topics.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The Scienceline Newsletter

Sign up for regular updates.