Thorn Creek

Last updated
Thorn Creek
Physical characteristics
Main source Will County near University Park, Illinois
765 ft (233 m)
41°26′08″N87°43′03″W / 41.4355556°N 87.7175°W / 41.4355556; -87.7175 (Thorn Creek origin)
River mouth Confluence with the Little Calumet River, South Holland, Illinois
581 ft (177 m)
41°35′38″N87°34′26″W / 41.5938889°N 87.5738889°W / 41.5938889; -87.5738889 (Thorn Creek mouth) Coordinates: 41°35′38″N87°34′26″W / 41.5938889°N 87.5738889°W / 41.5938889; -87.5738889 (Thorn Creek mouth)
Length 21 mi (34 km)
Basin features
Progression Thorn Creek → Little Calumet → Calumet → Lake Michigan → Great Lakes → Saint Lawrence Seaway → Gulf of Saint Lawrence
GNIS ID 419680
Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap  ·  Google Maps
Download coordinates as: KML  ·  GPX

Thorn Creek is a 20.8-mile-long (33.5 km) [1] tributary of the Little Calumet River that travels through Will and Cook counties in northeastern Illinois just south of Chicago. [2] It starts in the high land of the Valparaiso Moraine before dropping 200 feet (60 m) to the lower elevations of the Little Calumet River valley. Along its path it has cut many deep ravines and valleys. It is usually quite narrow, though the width of the river varies. Under 26th Street in Chicago Heights, a dam built in 1928 forms Sauk Lake (which is very wide), but just north of the street it is just a few feet across. This dam creates an accumulation of several feet of silt in Sauk Lake and is being considered for Notching in 2016 by the Corps of Engineers. The intent is to 'improve stream habitat'. The impact upon Ground Water Recharge, mitigation of Thorn Creek's 'flashiness' and future recreational activities are also concerns of Water-Shed Stakeholders.

Will County, Illinois County in the United States

Will County is a county in the northeastern part of the state of Illinois. According to the 2010 census, it had a population of 677,560, which is an increase of 34.9% from 502,266 in 2000, making it the fourth-most populous county in Illinois. The county seat is Joliet.

Cook County, Illinois County in Illinois, United States

Cook County is a county in the U.S. state of Illinois. It is the second-most populous county in the United States after Los Angeles County, California. As of 2017, the population was 5,211,263. Its county seat is Chicago, the largest city in Illinois and the third-most populous city in the United States. More than 40% of all residents of Illinois live in Cook County.

Illinois State of the United States of America

Illinois is a state in the Midwestern region of the United States. It has the 5th largest Gross Domestic Product by state, is the 6th-most populous U.S. state and 25th-largest state in terms of land area. Illinois is often noted as a microcosm of the entire United States. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in northern and central Illinois, and natural resources such as coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a diverse economic base, and is a major transportation hub. Chicagoland, Chicago's metropolitan area, contains over 65% of the state's population. The Port of Chicago connects the state to other global ports around the world from the Great Lakes, via the Saint Lawrence Seaway, to the Atlantic Ocean; as well as the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, via the Illinois Waterway on the Illinois River. The Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and the Wabash River form parts of the boundaries of Illinois. For decades, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has been ranked as one of the world's busiest airports. Illinois has long had a reputation as a bellwether both in social and cultural terms and, through the 1980s, in politics.

See also

Thorn Creek Woods Nature Center and Preserve is located in Will County, Illinois near the municipality of Park Forest, Illinois. It is part of the Forest Preserve District of Will County. The entranceway to Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve is located at 247 Monee Road, approximately 0.25-mile (400 m) north of Stunkel Road, in Park Forest. The preserve is open 8:00 a.m. - dusk daily; the Nature Center is open 12:00 - 4:00 p.m. Friday- Sunday. At 830 acres (3.4 km2), Thorn Creek Nature Preserve lies at the headwaters of Thorn Creek and consists of bottomlands, ravines, and white-oak forests interspersed with marsh and meadows. The actual nature center is located inside of an old church right off Monee Road. It is two stories and contains a nature library and nature exhibits. The trail starts behind the church and heads east into the woods. The topography varies. The trail starts off on high land before dropping down into the Thorn Creek River Valley. It then crosses the creek and goes up and out of the valley, again. The terrain is pretty rugged, especially near the river and its tributaries, because they have cut many gorges and ravines.

Sauk Trail Woods are located within the Cook County Forest Preserves in Park Forest and Chicago Heights, Illinois. They are part of the Thorn Creek Trail System. They contain miles of paved bike trails and off-trail dirt paths. Sauk Trail Woods contains Sauk Lake and Thorn Creek. The topography is fairly hilly, featuring ravines and steep, eroded hillsides. The elevation is the highest on the outskirts of the preserve. Then, as one goes into the Thorn Creek River Valley, you descend steep hills and sandy bluffs. There is an abundance of ravines that have been cut by creeks flowing into the valley. Many of the ravines are surprisingly deep near the bottom of the valley. Most of the Sauk Trail Woods Preserve is covered by dense woods, however there are some open prairie areas. In the northwest section of the woods, there is a fairly large marsh, that is surrounded by thick pompus grass and shallow bogs. The woods are located on the Valparaiso Moraine, which accounts for the hilliness of the area. There are many parking lots with pavilions situated throughout the preserve.

Calumet River river in the United States of America

The Calumet River is a system of heavily industrialized rivers and canals in the region between the neighborhood of South Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, and the city of Gary, Indiana. Historically, the Little Calumet River and the Grand Calumet River were one, the former flowing west from Indiana into Illinois, then turning back east to its mouth at Lake Michigan at Marquette Park in Gary.

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Merced River body of water in California

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Northwest Indiana

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Lake Chicago

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Forest Preserve District of Cook County public land management agency

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Westchester Township, Porter County, Indiana Township in Indiana, United States

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Valparaiso Moraine

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Tinley Moraine

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Kankakee Outwash Plain

The Kankakee Outwash Plain is a flat plain interspersed with sand dunes in the Kankakee River valley in northwestern Indiana and northeastern Illinois of the United States. It is just south of the Valparaiso Moraine and was formed during the Wisconsin Glaciation. As the glacier, stopped at the Valparaiso Moraine, melted, the meltwater was carried away to the outwash plain. On the south side of the moraine, where the elevation drops, the meltwaters eroded away valleys, carrying sand and mud with them. As the muddy meltwater reached the valley where the slope lessened, the water slowed down, depositing the sand on the outwash plain. This created a smooth, flat, and sandy plain. Before its draining, the Kankakee Marsh, located on the outwash plain, was one of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States.

Calumet Shoreline

The Calumet Shoreline is an ancient shoreline of Lake Michigan located in the Lake Michigan Basin. It can be clearly seen as a sand ridge along Ridge Road south of Chicago. Closer to the lake from the Calumet Shoreline, there are the Tolleston shorelines and farther from the lake are the Glenwood Shoreline, the Tinley Moraine, and the Valparaiso Moraine. The shoreline is named after the Calumet Region of Northern Indiana.

Glenwood Shoreline

The Glenwood Shoreline is an ancient shoreline of the precursor to Lake Michigan, Lake Chicago. It is named after the town of Glenwood, Illinois. The shoreline was formed when the lake was higher during the last Ice Age, while ice blocked the Straits of Mackinac. After the straits were freed, the lake receded and left behind a sand ridge at an elevation of about 640 feet (200 m) where the shore resided. This ridge can be seen clearly in Glenwood, Illinois, Dyer, Indiana, and Schererville, Indiana, all south of Chicago.

Kankakee Torrent

The Kankakee Torrent was a catastrophic flood that occurred 19,000 years ago in the Midwestern United States. It resulted from a breach of moraines forming a large glacial lake fed by the melting of the Late Wisconsin Laurentide Ice Sheet. The point of origin of the flood was from Lake Chicago. The landscape south of Chicago still shows the effects of the torrent, particularly at Kankakee River State Park and on the Illinois River at Starved Rock State Park.

East Arm Little Calumet River river in the United States of America

The East Arm Little Calumet River, also known as the Little Calumet River East Branch, is a 22.1-mile-long (35.6 km) portion of the Little Calumet River that begins just east of Holmesville, Indiana in New Durham Township in LaPorte County and flows west to Porter County and the Port of Indiana-Burns Waterway.

Salt Creek (Little Calumet River tributary) river in the United States of America

Salt Creek is a 24.0-mile-long (38.6 km) tributary of the East Arm Little Calumet River that begins south of Valparaiso in Porter County, Indiana and flows north until it joins the East Arm Little Calumet River just before it exits to Lake Michigan via the Port of Indiana-Burns Waterway.

Lake Kankakee

Lake Kankakee formed 14,000 years before present (YBP) in the valley of the Kankakee River. It developed from the outwash of the Michigan Lobe, Saginaw Lobe, and the Huron-Erie Lobe of the Wisconsin glaciation. These three ice sheets formed a basin across Northwestern Indiana. It was a time when the glaciers were receding, but had stopped for a thousand years in these locations. The lake drained about 13,000 YBP, until reaching the level of the Momence Ledge. The outcropping of limestone created an artificial base level, holding water throughout the upper basin, creating the Grand Kankakee Marsh.

Marseilles moraine

The Marseilles moraine is a terminal moraine that encircles the southern tip of Lake Michigan in North America. It begins near Elgin, Illinois, and extends south and west of Chicago metropolitan area, turning eastward 30 miles (48 km) to 40 miles (64 km) south of the lake in Kankakee and Iroqouis counties, entering Indiana. It formed during the Wisconsin glaciation. The glacier had been in retreat when it stopped for an extended period, depositing glacial till and sand creating the hills of the moraine.

The Calumet Aquifer is an aquifer underlying the land at the extreme southern tip of Lake Michigan. It underlies the northern third of Lake County, Indiana and the northern tenth of Porter County, as well as small parts of LaPorte County and Cook County, Illinois. It is notable chiefly for its high levels of contamination by industrial waste from factories and toxic waste dumps in the Calumet Region. It is bordered to the south by Valparaiso Moraine Aquifer, and to the north by Lake Michigan. It is underlain by a Silurian bedrock aquifer complex.


  1. U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed May 19, 2011
  2. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Thorn Creek