Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, Wolf Lake & Burnham Greenway

Off-the-beaten-path, this bike ride links two remarkable parks via a relatively new and hardly used bike path. Along the way you will visit some of Chicago’s industrialized Southeast Side and ride under the colossal Chicago Skyway. The bike ride is full of surprises such as a Nike missile, a U.S. Army tank, an eerie bike parking area, looming factories and blinds for waterfowl hunting - all within the city limits. Be sure to take this ride with a companion, and not too late in the day.

Terrain

Flat, smooth pavement (except for two short bumpy connectors).

Traffic

There are a couple of busy commercial cross streets in the middle of this ride near the Chicago Skyway. Along the greenway, however, there are several quiet park roads and small cross streets.

Access

The CTA’s #30 South Chicago bus stops at the entrance to the William W. Powers State Recreation Area at 12400 S. Avenue O. After entering the park, bike to the lakefront and turn right. Go to the southern end of the park and turn left into the parking lot. (Do not go straight toward park office.)

By car, exit Interstate 90 at U.S. 12 east/U.S. 20 east/U.S. 41 south (Indianapolis Boulevard). Turn right on 106th Street and left on Avenue O.

Food and Drink

There is water in the parks at either end and food at plenty of stores and restaurants in the middle.

Side Trip

You can bike around most of Wolf Lake by taking State Line Road to the right (east) at 1.3 miles into the ride, but you’ll have to double back afterward. This road does not have a bike lane, but traffic is light.

 

More Details

You may have driven over or around Wolf Lake a number of times on your way to or from Indiana without realizing that it’s a natural body of water. Today, the shallow 804-acre lake that was once connected by a channel to Lake Michigan is crisscrossed with roads and dikes. It has been seriously damaged by waste and runoff from Chicago and nearby industries.

Nevertheless the lake and surrounding areas are pleasant and rich in biodiversity. Somehow, natural pockets survived despite all the pollution and dumping, trucks and trains, factories and development. In fact, Wolf Lake anchors one of Chicago’s most important biological areas. In 2002, a bioblitz of the area identified 2,200 plant and animal species living there. During a bioblitz, scientists document as many living organisms as possible within a 24-hour period. Ground zero for the event was the 580-acre William W. Powers State Recreation Area, a haven for picnicking and fishing and the starting point of this ride.

During the Cold War, the area was part of a Nike missile site, a link in an extensive air defense system for Chicago and its critical industries. That’s why there’s a Nike missile mounted at the park’s entrance. The missile site was decommissioned in the 1970s. Burnham Greenway Running through parkland and city neighborhoods, the Burnham Greenway is short, straight and open. Although the blacktop is wide and smooth, occasional cross streets prevent it from being used as a bicycle speedway. There are plans to link this section of the greenway with the longer Burnham Greenway that starts three miles south at State Street in Calumet City and runs five miles to the Illinois-Indiana border at Lansing.

Be prepared to “shift gears” after this ride hits the Chicago Skyway, one of the city’s most massive engineering works. The ride runs under this superhighway and along busy Indianapolis Boulevard for a short but memorable distance before it connects with Calumet Park, a relatively large but well-worn city park. The park’s name bears tribute to the Calumet region, which encompasses numerous South Side communities, a lake and two rivers. The word Calumet comes from chamulet, an old French word for pipe. Early French explorers who traded and lived with local Native Americans used the word in reference to their ceremonial pipes.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start in parking lot at southern tip of Wolf Lake in the William W. Powers State Recreation Area.
  • 0.1 Turn right (north) out of parking lot.
  • 0.6 Turn left on Veterans Dr.
  • 0.7 Turn right following the sign to Burnham Greenway. Note Nike missile on right.
  • 1.3 At intersection of roads, turn left onto short connector path and then right on the Burnham Greenway trail.
  • 2.4 Entrance to Eggers Grove Forest Preserve on right.
  • 2.5 First of several road crossings, but streets are quiet and traffic is slow.
  • 3.5 Quick jog left and then cross Indianapolis Ave. Follow the trail along Indianapolis Ave with Chicago Skyway overhead.
  • 4.1 Turn right under bridge, staying in street. (The street is bumpy but sidewalk is worse.) Turn right immediately after bridge and follow 100th St going east toward park.
  • 4.3 Careful crossing railroad tracks.
  • 4.5 Follow road left as it turns into Waldron Dr and runs along the lakefront.
  • 5.1 Follow road left as it turns into Foreman Dr.
  • 5.6 Turn right on Crilly Dr to see how to access Calumet Park from 95th St.
  • 5.7 At the railroad tracks, turn around and go back.
  • 5.8 Turn left along Foreman Dr to return the same way you came.
  • 6.2 Follow road right as it turns into Waldron Dr.
  • 6.9 Follow road right as it turns into 100th St.
  • 7.0 Careful crossing tracks.
  • 7.1 Bike under bridge, staying in street, despite all the bumps.
  • 7.9 Cross Indianapolis Ave and pick up Burnham Greenway going south.
  • 10.0 Turn left onto short connector path and then right on road going south into park.
  • 10.7 Turn left on Veterans Dr.
  • 10.8 Turn right on road along the front of Wolf Lake.
  • 11.3 Turn left into parking lot.
  • 11.4 End ride.
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    18.15 km / 11.278 mi

    Total Distance

    66 m / 218 ft

    Total Ascent

    66 m / 218 ft

    Total Descent

    183 m / 602 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Beginner (Green)
    Ride Duration: <1 hr
    Fitness Level: Low
    Terrain:
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    On-Road
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Mobile Coverage: Excellent
    Estimated Distance: 18.0
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire facilities
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber

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