chicago st. pats day paddle

has anyone on this forum done this paddle in the last couple years? what is the event like?

I missed it.
Sorry I can’t share a history of this event. But I’ve seen photos and it looks quite interesting.

I moved to Chicago last year and was looking forward to this paddle. I ended up with a terrible cold and didn’t make it. I do have it on my calendar for this year and I WILL NOT MISS IT.

Hope to see you there.


Don’t know about the St.Paddys Day
paddle but 4 years ago I drive up for the Great Chicago River race and regatta and that was fantastic.!! If the organizers of this event run it half as well as the group(s) that run the one in june, you’ll have a blast!..It’s like paddling a waterway thru europe with all the ethnic neighborhoods.

Try This

Chicagoland Canoe Base
You might look at and call them and ask about it…they are good folks and they are paddlers and I’ll bet they’d know more about the St. Patty’s Day paddle.

My wife and I were discussing this.
Instinctively I cannot believe that dyeing the entire river green is a good idea. Has anyone actually investigated the possible bad effects? What about aquatic life? Does this affect them directly? Does it affect their ability to find food? Until someone knowledgable without something to gain says the practice is actually harmless I would be reluctant to participate.

A skeptical Irishman

Good to be concerned
but one really can’t do anything that involves water in Chicagoland without oversight from several government organizations.

The Chicago River is a “Sanitary Canal”, which was the primary outlet for sewage outflow for many years. The water is not considered safe for human contact. Since the deep tunnel project, untreated sewage discharge has became uncommon, and the quality of the river has improved gradually over the years. For inner city dwellers, it has become interesting, if not nice place to paddle.

There is a CASKA meeting next weekend for planning all the 2006 events. More info on the St. Pat’s paddle should be available shortly thereafter.

On another thought, Canoecopia is that weekend, so I will be in Madison. Canoecopia beats paddling in green water any day! :o)

So close
The Chicago River is a true and real river and it was there before the Indians and De La Salle. The Cal Sag and various other canal are sanitary canals and shipping canals. Your mis statement may come from the fact that the reason the river was ‘turned around’ was because of the heavy level of polutuon from a new city dumping sewage and trash into the river. The river at that time flowed into the lake and that was the primary source of drinking water. Thus contaminating the supply for the city. They moved the intake further and further out into the lake. But still they had problems. The enigieering that it tool to tur the river around was amazing. Just thought you would like to know.


Since it is green, it is quite possibly

– Last Updated: Jan-30-06 3:59 PM EST –

a vegetable-based dye, so it probably wouldn't hurt the six-eyed mutant fish that live in the Chicago River. I'm kind of knowledgeable, as an environmental scientist working in groundwater and surfacewater remediation.

I’m getting some mixed information here.
"The chemical used during the 1960s to turn the river green was a fluorescent dye. But King said it’s not allowed anymore because the Environmental Protection Agency outlawed the use of the chemical that was proven to be harmful to the river. King said the secret ingredients used to dye the river green today are safe and are not harmful to the thousands of goldfish that make up a large percentage of the river’s fish population. "

“The tradition started in 1962, when city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and realized that the green dye might provide a unique way to celebrate the holiday. That year, they released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river—enough to keep it green for a week!”

"However, only 40 pounds of dye are used today to minimize environmental damage. "

It’s a Chicago tradition to dye the River a bright green on St Patrick’s Day. No environmental symbolism intended: just an aquatic parade route decoration that disperses into the suspended solids. These days Chicago’s most prominent green, however, is more along the lines of plants on rooftops, solar power, and LEED certified public buildings. Her latest experiment, deploying a totally new design of wind turbine by Aerotecture on the legendary “Big Shoulders”, is an attention getter that surpasses the fluorescein dye. We think the tourists are going like this one all year…and the hoteliers, and the Chamber of Commerce (recently turned into a band of TreeHuggers we suspect). Check out the streaming video of a prototype of this turbine via local news station [Windows OS only]. And, please read on for excerpts from coverage by the Sun Times.

“One of its more recognizable uses is in the Chicago River, where fluorescein is used to dye the river green on St. Patrick’s Day.”

I was concerned about more than that.
For example, are creatures of any kind dyed green? If so, for how long and does that effect their ability to survive? I have fished any number of times in the river and I have seen what it is like using a remote camera. The water is much clearer than you would suspect just walking along the bank. And there are lots of fish of a wide variety. And shell fish of various kinds, and smaller creatures. Do you know it is a vegetable dye? If so, do you know it is harmless? Obviously I know nothing about this but I think it is reasonable to get answers from those who do know something.

They’ve been doing it for 40 years

– Last Updated: Jan-30-06 5:11 PM EST –

It's pretty high profile, too. I'm sure they got a NPDES permit to do it, which involved dosing plenty of fathead minnows and daphnia.

Didn't mean to be flippant with the mutant fish comment, but no way they could have done such a high profile discharge for so long if it were not safe.

See what I have already dug up below - not a conclusive answer there, but it looks like they used to use fluorescein based on the fact that the original dying was thought of while doing old school F&T on illegal dumping, but switched to a vegetable dye and reduced the discharge amount for environmental reasons. I'm thinking some of the articles that are claiming the first discharge was a vegetable dye are mistaken, as are ones that assume they are still using fluorescein.

As for it dying organisms green, if it is a vegetable dye any they took in would be broken down, so no. Even with a synthetic dye, it wouldn't dye the fish, but could be toxic for intake, but probably not to fish, the big concern would be invertebrates. As far as affecting the ability to find food, the dye disappears withing hours, so no.

From Friends of the Chicago River
"Who dyes the River green on St. Patricks Day?

A pipefitters union has been dyeing the River green since the early 1960s. They use fluorescein dye, a chemical (how harmless is debatable) which is used scientifically for tests in moving water. It is a time-honored tradition in Chicago, and more people probably view the Chicago River on this day than on any other day. Friends thinks it’s great that the River gets so much attention on St. Patty’s Day, but we also think that dying the River gives the impression that it is lifeless and artificial. Friends doesn’t think that the River is just a decoration for an annual holiday – it’s a natural resource in the heart of Chicago, full of life and potential."

Some disagreement

– Last Updated: Jan-30-06 5:32 PM EST –

Friends of the Chicago River claims the dye is fluorescein, The City of Chicago claims the dye used to be fluorescein but not anymore for environmental reasons, and is now a secret recipe. City could be lying, FOCR could be mistaken, so who should we believe? Chicago's "secret" recipe isn't as secret as they believe. The city must make its NPDES Permit publicly available, and its Discharge Monitoring Reports are public domain as well. I encourage you to look at its past ones for March of every year.

Now you’ve got me curious.
The Man Who Dyed the River Green

Stephen M. Bailey

by Dan Lydon as told by a true Irishman

It was early December 1961 when Steve Bailey asked me to stop in to discuss plans for the 1962 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Bailey’s office at Plumber’s Hall was unique. His desk was a huge oval table, perhaps 30 feet long, made of burnished wood and turquoise color leather. Around the circumference were 11 unupholstered chairs, and at the head, a twelfth chair. It belonged to Bailey.

As Business Manager of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union #110, Bailey prided himself on keeping his office door open to anyone who wanted to see him.

Shortly after I entered his office his secretary told him a plumber wanted to see him about something personal. He was ushered into his office.

The plumber wore white coveralls and Bailey did a double-take when he noticed they were splotched with green coloring.

“Where have you been?” Bailey asked. The plumber told him he had been trying to locate and disconnect a waste line that was emptying into the Chicago River.

That was the year the city began enforcing water pollution controls. A building near the Chicago River had been ordered to discontinue emptying waste materials into the river.

In order to find the source of the discharge, the plumber poured green dye into various openings of the waste system and then checked at the river’s edge to see whether or not the green appeared.

Bailey’s eyes turned to the ceiling and a smile brightened his face. He looked at me and said, “The river could use it.”

“Why couldn’t we dye the whole river for St. Patrick’s Day?” he added. I couldn’t believe my ears! My first thought was that it couldn’t be done, but knowing Bailey I knew it was going to be tried.

When the plumber left and we were alone again he said, “I’m serious. Who would know about this?”

Reaching for a straw I answered, Capt. Manley, the port director. He is the only one I know who answers questions about the Chicago River.

In a second he was on the phone to Capt. Manley.

Bill Barry, first deputy port director, happened to be in Manley’s office when the call came in and related the following conversation.

“Say John,” said Bailey, “I’ve been wondering whether we could dye the river green for St. Patrick’s Day. What do you think?”

“It might work” said Manley, after a moments hesitation. “Just a minute.”

Manley turned to Barry and put the question to him.

“Gee, Cap, I don’t know,” said Barry. “If the Fire Department can shoot colored water into the air from its boats, I don’t see why we couldn’t try it.”

Manley went back to the phone and told Bailey he was sure it could be done. “We will explore it with your people and the Fire Department.”

After the call Bailey turned to me and said, “I want you to get together with Capt. Manley and Bill Barry and test the dye the plumbers, to see if it will work.”

Barry and I met with a salesman who sold dye to plumbing contractors. They used a compound of fluorescence dye that had been used by the military in rescue operations at sea.

Barry recalls, “I remember seeing that dye for the first time we tried it, and I thought we’d been crossed. But once we stirred it up in the water with a couple of motorboats, it made a regular carpet of green. It was beautiful. It looked like you could walk on it.”

One of the initial problems was that there was no recipe for dying rivers green. Chicago was the first and only city to do it. So the question was: Do you use a few handfuls of dye or a carload?

One-hundred pounds was used the first year. The river stayed green for a week! The second year, 1963, we cut to 50 lbs, the river was green for three days.

We finally decided to use 25 lbs and that did the job for one day.

In 1966, the environmentalists accused the parade committee of polluting the river. They complained that the dye was oil-based and was detrimental to all living things.

Bailey laughed when he heard their argument but agreed to find a new compound that would do the job and appease the critics.

The committee experimented with a number of vegetable dyes and after a bit of trial and error, the current 40 lbs of new dye was hit upon. It produces a carpet of green for four or five hours. The flamboyant Bailey had a field-day with the press when he announced he was changing the Chicago River to the Shannon River for one day.

With characteristic Irish exaggeration, Bailey said. "The Chicago River will dye the Illinois, which will dye the Mississippi, which will dye the Gulf of Mexico, which will send green dye up the gulf stream across the North Atlantic into the Irish Sea, a sea of green surrounding the land will appear as a greeting to all Irishmen of the Emerald Isle from the men of Erin in Chicago land, USA.

Bailey loved St. Patrick’s Day and he loved the parade. He had an unusual knack for making the front pages. Once he had the brain storm of coloring the Wrigley Building green by using colored flood lights, but it was vetoed.

“I don’t think P.K. Wrigley likes the Irish,” he said. Another time, he started a controversy with William A. Lee, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. He implied that Lee was not Irish and that the only time he ever saw the name Willy Lee was on a laundry window.

Lee countered by saying he had just returned from Europe and that in Ireland he saw the beautiful River Lee flowing gently through the center of Ireland. And that it wasn’t until he got to England that he saw the name Old Bailey, and it was on a jail.

In 1954, Stephen Michael Bailey made national headlines when he sent Dr. Albert Einstein a membership card in the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers, Local 110, AFL-CIO.

“…He is going to have to pay dues and attend meetings, but we’ll waive the apprenticeship period,” said Bailey.

Bailey was reacting to a magazine article in which Einstein was quoted, “I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in the hope of finding that most modest degree of independence still available.”

Bailey later sent a similar card to Rear Adm John D. Bulkeley. It was Bulkeley who supervised cutting the 14-inch water supply line at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Bulkeley did so, after Cuban Premier Fidel Castro accused him of stealing water from the pipeline. Castro had shut off water to the base.

“We are proud to have a man like Bulkeley in our union.” Bailey remarked.

A few years ago, Bailey reserved the bad shell in Grant Park and watched a class of 350 graduate from the union’s five-year apprentice program. The graduates wore tuxedos at his request.

Bailey was chairman of the loop parade from 1958 until his death November 15, 1966.

Dan Lydon is Executive Secretary of the Plumbing of Chicagoland. He was chairman of the West Side parade and the first parade in the loop in 1956.

this has gone way off topic
I think I asked about the event, not the effects of dying the river green. Its not that I dont care, but there are way bigger things in the world to worry about in my opinion. Im sure that after years of doing this most of the effects have been investigated. Why do people have to worry about everything?

Its not that I worry about everything.
You said:

“Im sure that after years of doing this most of the effects have been investigated. Why do people have to worry about everything?”

Often you need to be concerned exactly because of this attitude. It is analagous to releasing balloons or throwing rice at weddings. Both were done for years without a question and even now you still find doing it. It seems quite plausible to me that the political pressure of wanting to continue a popular celebration would lead people to look the other way.

Sorry, didn’t mean to hijack the thread
but as an environmental scientist, Dr Disco’s question piqued my interest. Even though I live on the Gulf and love it, I’m fascinated by Lake Michigan. It is really more like an inland freshwater sea than a lake in a lot of ways. I first went to Chicago 4 1/2 years ago and went to the Shedd Aquarium, and that really got me to appreciate the lake. That, and sitting at the bar at the top of the John Hancock Building looking out over the Lake.

Have you seen
the Chacigo River or any “wildlife” in it. Trust me a little green dye is the least of the problems.

Check my post above.

“I have fished any number of times in the river and I have seen what it is like using a remote camera. The water is much clearer than you would suspect just walking along the bank. And there are lots of fish of a wide variety. And shell fish of various kinds, and smaller creatures.”

A great effort has been made to clean up the Chicago River and the improvement in recent years has been dramatic, due in no small part to the group Friends of the Chicago River. But ideas die hard and once people come to believe that the river is a cesspool the belief stays long after it is no longer as true as it once was.