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How Chicago Turned an Industrial Waste Site Into a Nature Lovers' and Cyclists' Paradise

The Big Marsh was once home to nine steel mills. Now it’s where bikes and rare birds roam.
Big Marsh sits on a former industrial dumping ground but it's also an ecological linchpin in Chicago's greater Calumet region.
Big Marsh sits on a former industrial dumping ground but it's also an ecological linchpin in Chicago's greater Calumet region.Ben Schulman

A great blue heron looks out from a rocky outcropping over an emergent wetland. Across the open water, an egret stands still upon a log. A nearby tree is rumored to be the place where two bald eagles, often seen flying overhead, have settled.

If not for the shadows of long-abandoned smokestacks and the occasional passing truck and freight train, it would be easy to forget that this is Chicago.