Home Mr. Stagg Biography Mr. Stagg Honors Images Page 1 Images Page 2
Palos Hills Geography Palos Hills History Stagg High School History Mr. Stagg Schools Image Page 3
Geography of Palos Hills, Illinois

All graphics on this page are reduced in size.  
To view a larger version of that graphic, just click on the graphic.
     

The original landscape of Palos Hills is not visible.  That physical setting of Palos Hills, as well as most of the rest of Illinois, was altered and covered by four glacial periods and more recently by the hand of man. Continental glaciers moved southward from Canada.  Acting like massive bulldozers the glaciers leveled hills and filled in valleys.  When a glacier would stop its advance, the material piled in front of its advancing edge would remain.  Those hills of material are called moraines.  As the glaciers moved down the basin of Lake Michigan, they left several moraines curving through the Palos area.  Geologists gave those moraines names, names of towns that the moraines passed through.

     
Image - Geology Map of Palos Hills, Illinois Image - Topographic Map of Palos Hills, Illinois
Geology map showing  moraines
 and lake plain
Relief map illustrating features of   
the Palos area.
     

Two moraines form the hill region located in western Palos Hills and the nearby communities.  Those moraines are the Tinley Park and the Valporaiso Moraine. As one drives west on 107th street, it is very easy to recognize a rapid change in elevation of approximately forty to sixty feet.  You have reached the edge of the moraines.   At one time those moraines held back all of the water from the melting glaciers.  That extensive area of water was called glacial Lake Chicago.  It is right here in the Palos area where the moraines broke and the waters from glacial Lake Chicago poured through, the water flowing southwest (the initial rush of water has been given the term "Kankakee Torrent") creating a glacial spillway, a valley (hence the name moraine valley appearing so often in our area) and slowly lowering the level of Lake Chicago, until along with other events, Lake Chicago became Lake Michigan in its current boundary.  (The Illinois State Museum has a web site explaining glaciers in this area. http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/larson/content.html
(There are also many web sites with good general information about glaciers.  All about glaciers from the National Snow and Data Center

     
Image - Looking downhill from the Tinley Moraine on 107th Street Image - Looking up 107th Street to Tinley  Moraine Image - 107th Street Facing West toward Tinley Moraine
View 107th and Kean,  top of Tinley Moraine  looking east, moraine ends  and elevation declines View 107th and 88th Ave  looking west, top of rise is  107th and Kean, the  Tinley Moraine. View 107th and 88th Ave  looking west, top of rise is  107th and Kean, the  Tinley Moraine.
     
View from top of Tinley Moraine Looking South to 111th Street View from top of Tinley Moraine Looking South to 111th Street View from top of Tinley Moraine Looking South to 111th Street
View from top of Tinley  Moraine at 107th and   Kean looking south to  111th and the Sag Valley. View from top of Tinley  Moraine at 107th and   Kean looking south to  111th and the Sag Valley. View from top of Tinley  Moraine at 107th and   Kean looking south to  111th and the Sag Valley.
     

Other physical regions of our area derive their names from this geologic period.  The higher areas, those that appeared first above the lowering levels of the lake waters, were called islands.  Blue Island, Stony Island, and the largest of them right here in the Palos Area, Mount Forest island are the areas of higher elevation.     

The moraine region contains many lakes, also remains of the glacial ages.  These lakes are commonly called sloughs.  Much of the moraine region and many of the lakes in the Palos area have remained public lands becoming part of the Cook County Forest Preserve.

     
Image - Map - Palos Hills Topograph
Topography Map of Palos Hills Area
Click Here For Larger Version
Click Here For Largest Version
     

Man has made significant alterations to the physical landscape of the Palos area.  The lower portion of the glacial valley (south of Mount Forest Island), the sag, was dug deeper and became the Calumet-Sag Channel, drawing Lake Michigan water to flow toward and eventually reach the Illinois River, part of the plan to reverse the flow of the Chicago River.  The northern portion of the glacial valley (north of Mount Forest Island) was dug deeper and became the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, drawing Lake Michigan water to flow toward and eventually reach the Illinois River, another part of the plan to reverse the flow of the Chicago River.  There are several web sites with information on the reversal of the Chicago River:  NIU Library Description of the Reversal of the Chicago River - One of the Top Ten Public Works Projects of the Century -

     
Image - Calumet Sag Channel at LaGrange Road Image - Illinois and Michigan Canal Image - Illinois and Michigan Canal near Lemont, Illinois
Calumet Sag Channel at   LaGrange Road Illinois and Michigan Canal Illinois and Michigan Canal near  Lemont, Illinois
Image - Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal near Lemont, Illinois Image - Joining of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the Calumet Sag Channel near Mount Forest Island  
Chicago Sanitary and Ship  Canal in Lemont, Illinois Joining of the Calumet Sag  Channel and the Illinois and  Michigan Canal at the tip of  Mt. Forest Island.  
     

The land along 111th street in Palos Hills in its natural state was subject to flooding.  That land was made less prone to flooding by early residents with the digging of a drainage ditch (the Lucas Ditch) and work on Stony Creek to channel waters to the Calumet-Sag Channel.  When Moraine Valley Community College was constructed, retention ponds were constructed to hold the runoff.  Later new sewage and runoff lines were constructed in Palos Hills.  The Deep Tunnel Project also runs close to Palos Hills.   There are several web sites with information or images of the Deep Tunnel.  Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Deep Tunnel Web Page - Flickr Set of Deep Tunnel Pictures -

 

 

     
Image - Moraine Valley Retention Pond along 111th Street Image - Moraine Valley Retention Pond Image - Lucas Ditch near 111th Street - Dug by earlier residents
Retention pond at MVCC  view from 111th St. Retention pond at MVCC  view from 111th St. Lucas Ditch as  viewed toward   the north as it  crosses 111th.
     
Image - Former Clay Pit Near Northeast Corner of 111th and SW Highway Image - Stoney Creek near 111th Street in Palos Hills Image - Stoney Creek Emptying Into Calumet Sag Channel
Former clay pit, near northeast corner of the  intersection of 111th and  Southwest Highway.  Now gone and partially converted to commuter train station. Stony Creek as viewed  toward the north as it  crosses 111th. Stony Creek as   viewed toward  the south, emptying  into the Cal Sag.
     

The physical landscape at the intersection of 111th and LaGrange Road is also an alteration of man.  That intersection was an area used as a clay pit.  During the 1960's, it was a refuge dump, eventually sealed and covered.  Today to the casual observer, it is a nice hill, seemingly part of the moraine itself.  Another clay pit near the intersection of 111th and Southwest Highway, partially filled with water, has been considered for a number of uses.  Today much of it has been re-landscaped into a commuter train facility.

Older topographic maps of the Palos area indicate a seemingly chain of small ponds just north of 111th street intersecting Roberts Road.  Those ponds are sloughs, they have been slowly filled in and are also nearly gone.  They valley they were part of, running west of Roberts Road was also filled in.  Today a subdivision of homes sits atop that landfill.  The slope of land along 107th and 88th Avenue was redesigned in order to build homes in that area.

     
Image - 1972 picture of Slough, 108th and Roberts Road, now filled in. Image - Slough near 108th and Roberts Road, Picture 2000. Image - Subdivision building along filled in Slough.
Slough just east of Roberts  Road and 108th St. Picture  taken in 1972. Same slough.  Picture  taken in 2000. Portion of filled slough  now has a subdivision  along its edge.
     
Image - Land Filled and Housing Developed.  Pic 1972 Image - Land Filled and Housing Developed.  Pic 1972 Image - Slough Lake and Fen along 111th Street near LaGrange Road
Land filled just west of  Roberts Road and 109th  street.  Picture taken in 1972. Land filled just west of  Roberts Road and 109th  street.  Picture taken in 1972. Small slough lake in the fen along  111th near LaGrange Road.
     
Image 1 - Fen between 111th and Calumet Sag Channel Image 2 - Fen between 111th and Calumet Sag Channel Image 3 - Fen between 111th and Calumet Sag Channel 
Fen between 111th and the  Calumet Sag Channel, Kean  to LaGrange Road. Fen between 111th and the  Calumet Sag Channel, Kean  to LaGrange Road. Fen between 111th and the  Calumet Sag Channel, Kean  to LaGrange Road.
     

Several portions of the natural landscape of the Palos area have resisted the efforts of man to modify them.  The fens found near the eastern edge of the moraine are perhaps the best example.  Spongy, moist grounds, the fens are mostly part of the Cook County Forest Preserves which border Palos Hills on the west.