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TOPIC: The Ditch

The Ditch Oct 02, 2019 9:27 am #25382

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Burns Ditch at one time
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Life is not measured by the breaths you take
but by the moments that take your breath away

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The Ditch Oct 02, 2019 11:22 am #25383

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When was this taken Ed?
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The Ditch Oct 02, 2019 3:18 pm #25384

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Jeff not for sure,,,,,,,,,,, thought I saw a time stamp for 1949?
Did see a little blurb about the midwest plant and property.

Midwest Steel actually was incorporated in Indiana on Feb. 8, 1930, by E.T.

Weir, chairman of National Steel Corp.; Charles M. Thorp, a director on the

company's board; and Frank M. Hesse, a vice president. The ground where the

plant now sits was bought Oct. 7, 1929. For about 30 years, the land was

nothing more than an asset in the company's books. However, a desire to get a

strategic position in the growing steel market in the Midwestern states

prompted company officials to finally build the plant.
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The Ditch Oct 03, 2019 2:36 pm #25385

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It sure would have been cool to see the southern shore of the lake in its natural state. I wonder all the time what the fishing would have been like in the Grand Calumet before it was chopped up channelized, reversed, polluted, and silted in. I’m guessing the river was probably comparable to the St Joe and dumped in near the lagoon in Miller. It had to support some serious fish.

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The Ditch Oct 04, 2019 3:09 pm #25387

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Very interesting photo. I've tried to find out when and why the ditch was built. I can only imagine the goal was to develop it as an industrial port. That was one righteous amount of sand to dig out just to make a couple of recreational marinas. Was the developer's name Burns?

But I doubt Salt Creek and the Little Cal were fish havens. Pre-drainage, the water behind the dunes was basically a marsh which ran from there over to the ridge where Ridge Road runs. The water in the marsh basically just oozed to the west, joined up with the Grand Calumet and flowed out near 95th street. Probably had some fish - normal warm water species - bluegills, bass, catfish, bullheads, suckers etc, but much would likely freeze solid or winter kill enough that it wasn't a fish-rich environment.

Some of this I've read in old accounts of the area and early history. Some of it is conjecture based on what I know of the area's geography.

I'd welcome additional information or places to look.

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The Ditch Oct 04, 2019 5:32 pm #25388

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Bro, the Grand Cal and Little Cal are/were in big drainage. The little cal flowed west out as far as Blue Island, IL. That’s where the cut was made to join the Cal Sag. Historically, before the Cal Sag, the river made a hair pin and flowed back east to Lake Street where it all entered the lake. I’ve read a lot of history on it over the years. I have a family friend that was a geologist for Argon National Lab. He had some cool old maps. It was a big river. I don’t know what would have been using the modern East Branch and Salt Creek, but I’m sure those marshy lower reaches had crappie, northern, perch, etc. I once saw an commercial fishing survey that showed Miller as the most productive port on the Great Lakes. I also know the land for the Port and Bethlehem steel was bought up in parcels under cover to avoid opposition from early environmentalists in Chicago. The aftermath of the ditch being built and mill going in was the formation of the Dunes as a preserve. If you look at google maps, you can still pretty much see the historical drainage and river bed.
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The Ditch Oct 07, 2019 11:23 am #25394

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"Burns Harbor is named for Randall Burns, one of the leaders of the 1926 construction of what is known as Burns Ditch, a channel that connects the Little Calumet River to Lake Michigan, just west of Burns Harbor in Portage Township. Because he was the first person to sign the petition to build it, Burns' name was given to the ditch."

Burns Harbor town - Local History: www.burnsharbor-in.gov/203/Local-History
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The Ditch Oct 09, 2019 9:12 am #25404

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I read the history on that site. Interesting stuff but it still doesn't describe why Burns Ditch was dug and why it was so huge. It would also be interesting how it was built. That was one major amount of sand that needed to be hauled out and put somewhere - sort of like Panama Canal - north.

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The Ditch Oct 09, 2019 10:22 am #25405

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Here's an excerpt taken from the "Encyclopedia of Chicago" on the Calumet river system.
Industrial development became possible in 1869, when Congress appropriated money for a harbor at South Chicago. In the 1890s, the Calumet River was straightened and dredged. Industry began moving into the area in the 1870s, and by the early twentieth century the Pullman Company, the South Works of U.S. Steel, and other industries had been established in southeast Chicago and Hammond. To accommodate industry, the channel of the Grand Calumet was moved and straightened. The Indiana Harbor Canal connecting the Grand Calumet with Lake Michigan at East Chicago was completed in 1906, and industries moved to its banks. Burns Ditch, completed in 1926, connected the Little Calumet with Lake Michigan in Porter County, draining thousands of acres of marsh and facilitating development. Parts of the Grand Calumet and Little Calumet drained into the lake at these new outlets, depending on rainfall and lake levels. This harbor complex became the most important on the Great Lakes. With steel mills, oil refineries, chemical plants, packinghouses, and other industries, the Calumet system became the industrial center of the Chicago region. Since the model town of Pullman was built near its western shore in the early 1880s, Lake Calumet has been drastically altered. Vast areas of it have been filled in with refuse and converted to use as parkland and docks, while extensive dredging has deepened other parts to accommodate shipping.
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The Ditch Oct 09, 2019 1:48 pm #25406

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That makes some sense, the "ditch" was more for drainage than industry, however, It's one whopping big "dig" to simply drain the marshes behind the sand dunes. Perhaps it needed to be that big because the sand would so easily erode and fill in a more narrow channel. However, one would think that erosion could have been stopped more inexpensively by rip-rap or sheet piling without having to dig out so much sand.

The ditch may have been the drain for thousands of acres - the Kankakee River drained a million acres and is about the same size (depth and width) as Burns Ditch.
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