Slice of Life: Chicago’s River Scrubbing Boat

Chicago river trash boat

We’ve seen a lot of different boats plying the Chicago River over the years.  Massive party boats that require the drawbridges to be raised, kayaks, cabin cruisers, sailboats, tugboats aplenty, police boats, fire boats, water department boats, heavily armed Coast Guard zodiacs, the occasional houseboat, and one absolutely immense barge that crawled through at 2am and was so big it could barely fit through the channel beneath the Michigan Avenue Bridge.

If there is such a thing as “boatspotting,” then the city of Chicago’s river cleaning boat must be worth 100 points.

Officially, it’s a Scavenger2000 Decontamination Vessel.  The front of it opens up like a pair of scary pincers on an earwig and it scoops up the river’s floating garbage.  Everything from bottles and fast food trash to lakeweed and floating barrels.  In theory it might even be able to handle 800 pounds of rock star poop, like the kind dumped into the Chicago River by the Dave Matthews band in 2004. The boat can decontaminate up to 20,000 gallons of water a minute, then return it to the river all full of healthy oxygen.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

Share This Post On