Photos: What Would Chicago Look Like if Lake Michigan Dried Up?

The water level in Lake Michigan is at an all-time low. This shouldn’t be surprising news to anyone who was around for Chicago’s recent snow-less winters, extended summer heat spells, and other global warming-based factors. But what would happen if it hits zero and the lake disappears completely?

First off, it would be bad news if the lake dried up because of the serious problem of, you know, millions of people without access to water. But also, a dried up Lake Michigan would also totally kill the aesthetics of the Chicago lakefront. It probably won’t happen in our lifetime (or hopefully never), but I’m left wondering, what would the city look like without its lake?

Lake Michigan dried up low water levels

Chicago without Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan polluted toxic

If Lake Michigan became a toxic waste dump…

types of lake decay successionWhile it is fun to look at pictures of Lake Michigan as a desolate wasteland, a more realistic approach to Lake Michigan’s declining water levels would be a process called eutrophication. A eutrophic lake forms when excess nutrients (in the form of waste or fertilizers) enter the system and create conditions ideal for algae and plant life to overgrow, making it harder for fish and other wildlife to exist. These factors, combined with a gradual decrease in water levels, pollution, and global warming, could turn even the largest of lakes eutrophic. In other words, Chicago’s beaches and harbors would become bogs and swamps. Mind you, Lake Michigan has remained an ogliotrohic lake for thousands of years and it would take another few thousand to turn it into a eutrophic lake, but with record low rainfalls and a record number of heat waves in the Midwest, we’re on the right track for a few centuries from now.

The lake would look something along the lines of this, with maybe a few more alligators:
pollution Lake Michigan eutrophic

Note: the photos were scavenged and edited from across the internet. Find the original ones here:


  1. […] had some good fun messing around with photoshop for my last post: What Would Chicago Look Like If Lake Michigan Dried Up? So I thought I’d doctor some more Chicago photos and create some original “Star Wars […]

  2. […] Pic from Chicago Rants! […]

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