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The Chicago River Swim will offer athletes a once-in-a-lifetime experience to swim among Chicago’s iconic skyscrapers and under its historic bridges for the first time in nearly 100 years.

History In the Making

1908 Illinois Athletic Club Marathon River Swim

Chicago would be nothing without its river, primarily due to remarkable engineering that reversed its flow to draw fresh water from Lake Michigan in 1900. 

One of many positive impacts was the creation of a natural stadium for both on-water and in-water events. In 1908, the Illinois Athletic Association celebrated the waterway improvements by hosting river swim competitions, quickly attracting top world athletes and drawing 100,000 spectators.

By the 1920s, industrial discharge and street runoff re-polluted the river, which fell into disarray until environmentalists and new legislation began to take action in the 1940s.

Today, through concentrated efforts, the Chicago River is at its cleanest levels on record and again a source of pride for its city.

2023 Chicago River Swim

The proposed Chicago River Swim will celebrate the once-unthinkable rebirth of the river with a 2.4 mile point-to-point swim for a limited field on Sunday, September 17, 2023.

The event is made possible with support of various agencies and businesses with proceeds to fund ALS research at Northwestern University and local learn-to-swim organizations.

Registration will open soon, subject to permit approvals. Due to anticipated demand, a special application process will be announced for qualified individuals. Those who meet safety criteria and agree to fundraising commitments will be placed into a random drawing for entry. There will be no fee to apply, but winning entrants must complete their fundraising thresholds. 

Final details will be posted ASAP. In the meantime, please visit this site to learn more about this unique event.

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The Countdown Is On


How to Apply

Learn about the Chicago River Swim requirements and application process.