Rowing in the Jungle

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew, from left, Amee McMahon, Joan Neal, Nina Clark and Monica Bernardo carry a rowing shell to the dock on the South Fork of the Chicago River, also known as "Bubbly Creek," August 26, 2015. The team practices on the river twice a week and launches from the area where the South Fork diverts from the South Branch, the historically polluted area that gets its nickname from the bubbling gases of decomposing waste in the water - leftovers disposed of in the river by meatpacking businesses in the Union Stock Yards area in the early 20th century. In the present day, Bubbly Creek takes on water and waste from oversaturated sewers during heavy rainstorms. The women of Recovery on Water are sure to use hand sanitizer directly after practice and change clothes and bathe immediately when they get home. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew, from left, Amee McMahon, Joan Neal, Nina Clark and Monica Bernardo carry a rowing shell to the dock on the South Fork of the Chicago River, also known as "Bubbly Creek," August 26, 2015. The team practices on the river twice a week and launches from the area where the South Fork diverts from the South Branch, the historically polluted area that gets its nickname from the bubbling gases of decomposing waste in the water - leftovers disposed of in the river by meatpacking businesses in the Union Stock Yards area in the early 20th century. In the present day, Bubbly Creek takes on water and waste from oversaturated sewers during heavy rainstorms. The women of Recovery on Water are sure to use hand sanitizer directly after practice and change clothes and bathe immediately when they get home. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Garbage and debris collect next to a dock along the South Fork of the Chicago River, also known as "Bubbly Creek," August 26, 2015. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune) 

Garbage and debris collect next to a dock along the South Fork of the Chicago River, also known as "Bubbly Creek," August 26, 2015. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune) 

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew practice on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. The team practices on the river twice a week and launches from the area where the South Fork diverts from the South Branch. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew practice on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. The team practices on the river twice a week and launches from the area where the South Fork diverts from the South Branch. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Devlin Murdock, operations and programs coordinator of Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing group, uses a bullhorn to give directions during practice on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Devlin Murdock, operations and programs coordinator of Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing group, uses a bullhorn to give directions during practice on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew practice on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune) 

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew practice on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune) 

The "Damen Silos," part of an abandoned grain elevator, sit along the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. Farther south, the river turns into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune) 

The "Damen Silos," part of an abandoned grain elevator, sit along the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. Farther south, the river turns into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune) 

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew go past a blue heron and mallard hens on the shore during practice on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. The team practices on the river twice a week and launches from the area where the South Fork diverts from the South Branch. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew go past a blue heron and mallard hens on the shore during practice on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. The team practices on the river twice a week and launches from the area where the South Fork diverts from the South Branch. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew row under the South Western Avenue bridge on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew row under the South Western Avenue bridge on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Kym Reynolds rows with other members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew during practice on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Kym Reynolds rows with other members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew during practice on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew practice on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015 as the sun sets in the distance. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew practice on the South Branch of the Chicago River August 26, 2015 as the sun sets in the distance. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Members of the Recovery on Water breast cancer survivors rowing crew practice on the Chicago River twice a week and launch their boats from the area where the South Fork diverts from the South Branch. The South Fork is also known as "Bubbly Creek." The historically polluted area gets its nickname from the bubbling gases of decomposing waste in the water - leftovers disposed of in the river by meatpacking businesses in the Union Stock Yards area in the early 20th century.

"The grease and chemicals that are poured into it undergo all sorts of strange transformations, which are the cause of its name; it is constantly in motion, as if huge fish were feeding in it, or great leviathans disporting themselves in its depths. Bubbles of carbonic gas will rise to the surface and burst, and make rings two or three feet wide." -Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, 1906

In the present day, the area has recovered somewhat, but Bubbly Creek still takes on water and waste from oversaturated sewers during heavy rainstorms, causing dangerously high levels of bacteria. The women of Recovery on Water are sure to use hand sanitizer directly after practice and change clothes and bathe immediately when they get home.

This isn't the only area of the Chicago River that poses serious health risks. Read Michael Hawthorne's story on the state of the Chicago River here.