We began our heavy industrial paddle in Portage, Indiana, where a former acid pit was recently remediated and turned into a park, complete with a LEED-certified building. Bathers on the nearby beach frolicked against a background of smokestacks and power lines.
|The put-in near Portage is beautiful, with native wildflowers reclaiming the land.|
At that point, there was really no place to land--which was fine with us, because we wouldn't have wanted to. It was noisy and the air smelled foul.
At one point, we had to go around an enormous spit of reclaimed land where a steel company took over what had been part of the lake. For about six miles, we paddled along a steel break wall. Behind it, behemoth trucks dumped material and belched smoke that blew into the water and our faces.
The navigational lights provided rare photogenic moments.
If all of this sounds unappealing, it was. But it was also fascinating. Foul as it is, this coastline is a reminder of the environmental consequences of a modern, industrial economy. We drive cars, but how often do we visit refineries? We walk on sidewalks, but how often do we see a cement plant? We work in skyscrapers, but how often do we see a steel plant?
As the sun set, we crossed the border into Illinois...
...and landed at Calumet Park.
Most of the time, it's nice to paddle in places that are a little more pristine, or at least a little less polluted. But sometimes it's good to paddle in a place that reminds us that consumption has consequences.