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The Five Best Geological Features on the South Side

Gentle Reader, there’s more to the South Side than just a so-called chip on its shoulder.

Promontory Point   Photo: Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune

After last week’s furor over Chicagoist’s “12 Best Tacos In Chicago” list, food writer Michael Gebert delivered a thoughtful post about the pitfalls of the listicle (tl;dr: can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em, treat food writers the way you want to be treated).

Amid a series of otherwise excellent points—“There’s an awfully good chance that, working for peanuts, some writer just took the results off previous lists and scrambled them around”—Gebert writes, “There are days I think the most prominent geologic feature on the South Side is the chip on its shoulder.”

This could not go unanswered.

Working with a loose definition of “best” and an even looser one of “geologic,” we put together a list of the sites Gebert might not have considered. We’ll let it speak for itself, except to add that if the South Side’s chip were any smaller, it would no longer be proportional to its big shoulders.

1Promontory Point

One of the more picturesque juts of Chicago’s coastline, the Point offers one of the best views of the city’s skyline from the South. The artificial peninsula is bordered in tumbling limestone, and it hosts endless joggers, barbecues, and undergrads swimming when it is too cold, too dark, or too early.

Palmisano Park
Palmisano Park, also known as Mount Bridgeport   Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune

2Mount Bridgeport

In Palmisano Park, South Siders have made a mountain of a molehill, the molehill being an old quarry and dumpsite whose conversion into parkland involved sculpting a landscape over a mound of debris. It may not be a great mountain (no peaks or cliffs), but Palmisano is a beautiful park. The slopes offer running paths, tall grass, a fishing hole and—rarest of all—a solid sledding hill.

3Lake Calumet

The far South Side is host to Chicago’s largest lake. (Lake Michigan, the obvious choice for that title, doesn’t count since it’s not bounded by city limits). In the heart of an industrial area that’s been raked by the retreat of those industries, the lake has survived decades of pollution to remain a habitat for a diverse array of fish (and fishermen). The lake lies in the city’s largest TIF district and may be the only place where invasive fish are as much a hot-button issue as development spending.

4The City’s Summit

Most of Chicago’s heights are man-made, and they keep getting higher. But if the Loop’s skyboxes make you queasy, Beverly, a hundred blocks south, offers a quieter peak. Glacial retreat left Chicago mostly flat, but a glacial ridge runs along Western between the Dan Ryan Woods and Blue Island. Amid Beverly’s basketball hoops and front yards, somewhere around 104th and Leavitt, find Chicago’s highest natural point. It looks a lot like all the points around it.

“On this site, President Barack Obama first kissed Michelle Obama.”   Photo: Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune

5Presidential First Date Rock

Rock is shaped by all kinds of natural forces: wind, ice, love. Outside the Hyde Park Baskin-Robbins, a 3,000-pound lump of granite marks the site of Barack and Michelle Obama’s first kiss. The 2012 installation serves as a historic marker, tourist attraction, and a lasting reminder that the president’s moves are better than yours.

Honorable mentions: Blue Island, The Cove, and Reggies Rock Club


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