A Century of Use
The Bear River lies at the heart of Evanston’s history. For more than a century, Evanston residents have used the river as a playground. Each generation has had its favorite fishing spot and swimming hole.

From a Dumping Ground to a River Playground

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the willows and brush that surrounded the ice ponds served as cover for hobo camps alongside the railroad tracks and the river.

Over the years, the Bear River through Evanston was neglected. Concrete debris, tires, and abandoned vehicles were dumped along the riverbanks.

Project Creation

In 1983, the Better Environment and River (BEAR) Project was born. This non-profit group of Evanston citizens was dedicated to rehabilitating the Bear River. Gradually, they transformed a wasteland into a community parkland.

Restoration Projects

In the early 1990s, the ice ponds were restored and refilled. In 1995, a main pathway and foot bridges were constructed along the Bear River. The Bear River Community Center and the Memorial Tree Grove soon followed. A major river rehabilitation project was completed in 2007, which promoted bank stabilization, enhanced fish habitats, and improved recreational opportunities.