Fieldwork: Soils of the Chicago-Calumet

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A major misunderstanding of the Chicago - Calumet region has to do with the soils under the city. The region has been wholesale lumped into the category of “blue clay” - the infamous moniker of a hard impervious crust of impenetrable soil that covers the region, on which the City is constructed. But, this is not the case. - Our team, led by quaternary geologists has been ‘unearthing’ the history of soils maps, soil borings, and water well and engineering reports to assemble a story of the geologic history of the region, and to characterize the soils there today. The land area inside the terminal moraine (the topographic edge of the Great Lakes basin) has a 14,000 year land development history—a story of glacial retreat, glacial lake plains, lake bottoms, and coastal formation—that is all composed of a wide diversity of soil types and textures from clayey loam in the lake bottom depressional areas to coarse sands and gravels in the former beach ridges and dune-swale locations. The patterns of these soils reveals a fascinating glaciated landscape history. Today we’re investigating these soils to help us with the story of water in the region - how water shaped the region, but also how soils contribute to flooding today and how we can design with these diverse solid to alleviate flooding and to promote sponging and infiltration.

Below we provide a gallery of soil field investigation images, and provide links to further public resources as we develop them: