| Story by Bruce Hodgdon |
When excavation began on the I & M Canal in 1836, in the words of the website Stone Quarries and Beyond, laborers soon encountered “magnesium-rich limestone called dolomite. . . . Within a few years a new industry was born, and dozens of quarries opened in Lemont, Lockport and Joliet, creating thousands of new jobs. This heavy, durable stone was easily and cheaply transported on the canal, and was used in many buildings throughout the corridor, including the Joliet Penitentiary and the Chicago Water Tower.”
Additionally, gravel quarries also altered the land. Many of these were located alongside Will County’s two main rivers, the Des Plaines and DuPage, where stone was ground down by a series of ice ages beginning 1.8 million years ago and deposited in these river valleys.
What remained when the quarrymen left were holes in the ground, some of them vast, that over time filled with rain and groundwater, forming lakes and ponds.
Over decades, the Forest Preserve District of Will County has acquired a number of properties that include these manmade lakes. The District has improved these to provide shoreline fishing and, in some cases, boating access. Both acquisition of the land and development of many of these quarry conversions were made possible by two voter referendums, in 1999 and 2005, that provided millions of dollars in funding.