The site of Skokie Lagoons was previously a marsh, known by the Potawatomi name Chewbab Skokie ("Big Wet Prarie") or Skokie Marsh. The marsh was partially drained by local farmers, leaving a peat bog. During spring floods it became a lake that inundated adjacent property and roads. Between 1933 and 1940, the Civilian Conservation Corps executed a plan to bring the waters under control. Several thousand workers moved four million yards of earth to recontour the land, creating the artificial lagoons of today.
Waste water dumping.
High waters erode the shoreline, filling the lagoons with sediment and damaging the fish habitat. From 1995 to 1999, the Chicago Audabon Society began a program of shoreline restoration. Thousands of plants were added to the shoreline to help limit erosion. Once it was realized that most of the plants in the southern, downstream lagoons were lost during high water, restoration efforts were concentrated on the upstream lagoons. Efforts were made to clear invasive species such as garlic mustard and buckthorn, and replace them with native plants and grasses like goldenrod, tall coreopsis, compass plant, cup plant , aster, coneflower, switchgrass, rattlesnake masters, woodland brome and cinquefoil.
In 1996, the FPDCC began a restoration program, which included the use of aquatic herbicides to improve shore fishing, dredging to remove sediment, poisoning and restocking the fish and building a boat launch south of Tower Road.. The 2008 Illinois EPA assessment of the water in Skokie Lagoons listed "Fish Consumption" and "Aesthetic Quality" as "Not Supporting" due to mercury, total suspended solids, phosporus, aquatic plants and algae
A 1.6 mile asphalt bike path runs to the west of the lagoons between Willow Road and Tower Road, and a 4.2 mile loop encircles the lagoons between Tower Road and Dundee Road. Connected to 20 mile North Branch Bicycle Trail
The shallow waters (depth ~10 feet) are suitable for kayaking, canoeing and rowboating.
210 species have been seen in Skokie Lagoons