Hyde Lake Plateau

Last week I took a walk to an area I always thought was a gravel pit.  It turned out to be a flattened mound–some sort of slag pile. After puzzling over the satellite image, and comparing it with old maps, I have concluded that this is none other than the lost Hyde Lake.

I love these old maps (they’re all clickable).  The first one is by the Army Corps of Engineers, 1811.

From left to right:  Lake Calumet, Hyde Lake, Wolf Lake, George Lake, all flowing more or less north, into Lake Michigan or into the Calumet river, which at that time flowed north into Lake Michigan.

A regional street map from 1902, showing Hyde Lake still in place.  Little Hegewisch has already been laid out, and its railroad tracks split as they go north on either side of Hyde Lake.

But by 1911, the steel industry has been well established in the Calumet area and Hyde Lake is no longer on the Waterways or Railroad Transportation maps.

From a satellite, you can see where the railroad track splits, but Hyde Lake is nothing but a gray mound.

Close up, you can see the railroad tracks bifurcating on the south, Wolf Lake to the east, the Ford plant on the north, and on the west, another railroad track squeezes between the marsh and the gray mound. In the middle of the gray mound, you can see high “sandstone ridges” described in early surveys.

Here’s what it looks like from the ground. First, entering the area across a marsh from the south, then climbing across the railroad tracks, then climbing up the low hill to the top of the plateau.

From the top of the plateau, to the north can be seen the Ford plant and the sandstone ridges mentioned in early surveys, and to the south, the neighborhood of Hegewisch.

Indian Creek flows into the surrounding wetland from Wolf Lake to the east, and here there are many signs of deer and birds. I cross the creek and walk along the north side of the plateau area on sidewalk across from the assembly plant. Finding a path back south, I ford the creek by way of some rocks, and find myself back on top of the plateau.

Finally I get up close to the peak in the middle of the slag dump, the “sandstone ridges” mentioned in old surveys. You can certainly see they were formed in an ancient sea bed.

I am reminded that this area was at once at the bottom of ancient Lake Michigan, covered by 60 feet of water.


UPDATE: A former resident of Hegewisch has confirmed for me that Hyde Lake was filled in by slag from steel production from National Steel.  That hill? –we put that there, he says.

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