Stealth River Route III: Diversey to Montrose


The Riverwalk on the west bank of the Chicago River north of Diversey Parkway.

Hopefully Grid Chicago readers aren’t yet tired of reading about stealth bike routes. We did get a good response the posts about “secret” river routes from the Loop to Division St. and Wellington Ave. to Webster St., as well as our roundup of Chainlinkers’ favorite routes.

By the way, here’s a fun video created by James Presley, which I caught at the Bike Winter Film Festival last Sunday. He explores the Loop to Division route from north to south. The background music really creates tension, like he’s defusing a bomb or something.


On Tuesday the weather was so nice that I couldn’t resist going out and photographing another stealth segment from Diversey St. (2800 N.) to Montrose Ave. (4400 N.), connecting three snippets of riverwalk, which reader Bob Kastigar recently reminded me about. I sometimes use this fun, if roundabout, route to commute from Logan Square to the Sulzer Library in Lincoln Square. Here’s a Google map of the route (see it embedded below).

On Tuesday afternoon I started riding this segment at Diversey (2800 N.) and Oakley Ave. (2300 W.) Heading north a block towards the River Walk Townhomes development I came to a path, marked private property, on the west bank of the Chicago River. A mother and her little daughter were throwing breadcrumbs into the water. “We’re feeding the ducks,” the girl said. “Oh, fun,” I replied.


To follow this route, it’s necessary to bear right at the first fork in the path, and then, after about a block on the path, take the next left, heading west. Turn south down a sidewalk and you’ll come to a driveway with a few guest parking spots with a row of old fashioned parking meters. Head west down the driveway to Western Ave. (2400 W.)

I continued straight on the river path a bit to where it dead-ends into the Western Ave. Bridge. There I encountered Rich, a bicycle hobo, barbecuing a large amount of chicken on a small hibachi. It smelled delicious.

Backtracking to the route, I turned north onto the Western sidewalk and crossed the bridge. On the other side of the river an overpass rises above the five-way Western/Belmont/Clybourn intersection. The structure was built in 1960 in response to congestion at the Riverview amusement park, which closed seven years later. Here’s a blurb I wrote on that subject for Time Out Chicago.


Leaving the sidewalk, I took the one-lane service road to the right of the overpass, passed by the Viaduct Theater and turned west on Fletcher St. (3130 N.), through the viaduct, where there’s a homeless encampment. I turned north on Campbell St. (2500 N.), passing by the headquarters for the Tampico Beverage Co. and Beverage Flavors International.


The Fletcher St. viaduct

At Belmont (3200 N.) I got on the sidewalk on the north side of the street and headed west up the Belmont Bridge. Just before the river a ramp leads down to the North Branch Riverwalk. (If you cross to the west bank of the river here, another section of riverwalk leads two blocks north to Roscoe St., a stone’s throw from Hot Doug’s gourmet hotdog stand.) As I rolled down, two teens, probably from nearby Lane Tech High School, were walking hand-in-hand underneath the ramp, where blankets and clothing lay on the ground.


A bit north along the path I came to The Garden, a BMX dirt jump park which was originally a guerilla facility but recently became sanctioned by the Chicago Park District. There are big, steep jumps reinforced with brick in the middle of the park, but even on my heavy cruiser I was able to navigate the gentler bumps on the mostly-flat perimeter path.


At the boat launch for Chicago River Canoe & Kayak, a father and son had caught a 20-pound carp with a fishing rod. Since the river is still heavily polluted, after unhooking and weighing the fish they rolled it back into the river and it swam away. I passed by a soccer field where an Ecuadorian food truck sells ceviche (marinated seafood) and arepas (corn cakes) in the summer.


After half a mile the path ends at Rockwell St. (2600 W.), just south of Addison St. (3600 N.) The Chicago Department of Transportation is planning to eventually build an underbridge connection under Addison to help eliminate this missing link in a future Riverfront Trail.

In the meantime, I headed east on Addison, passing by Lane Tech’s castle-like brick structure. (Another option is to head west on Addison to California Ave., go north a couple of blocks and pick your way through a few path snippets in California Park, on the west side of the river.) Turning north on Campbell St. (2500 W.), I continued past the WGN-TV studios, continuing straight on a sidewalk after the road bended left. At Revere Park, 3900 N., I turned west onto a path around the perimeter of the ball fields, ending at Irving Park Rd. (4000 N.), just east of the river.


Revere Park

The path drops you off right at the Rockwell St. stoplight and crosswalk, so I took that to the north side of Irving Park and rode west on the sidewalk across the river to the southeast corner of Horner Park. There, you can take a network of paths north along the east side of the long, narrow green space, near the west bank of the river – just keep bearing right. I passed by a man-made hill at the north end of the park, a great place to watch the sunset.


The Horner Park hill

When you get to Montrose Ave. (4400 N.) you can head west and follow the signed bike route up Mozart St. (2830 W.) and Manor St. (a SE/NW diagonal) to the start of the North Shore Channel Trail. Instead, I rolled east to Lincoln Square for a reception at the beautiful new east building for the Old Town School of Folk Music, a three-story structure whose facade is adorned with terracotta panels featuring the words for “music” in a dozen or two languages.

On the minus side, the sleek, well-placed bike racks in front of the building, which are shaped like long, skinny rectangles, only accommodate one bike each comfortably and don’t work with mini U-locks. I wish developers would stop trying to re-invent the wheel and just install the standard “inverted U” bike racks the city uses. If they want to be arty they can buy curvy, gleaming stainless-steel inverted Us.


Rockwell El stop

On the way I detoured to the charming little side-street retail district by the CTA’s Rockwell stop (4700N.), including Rockwell’s bar & grill, whose logo features a Brown Line car. Bells rang, gates lowered and an El train zoomed by at ground level, lighting up the now-indigo night.

View Stealth Route III in a larger map

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John Greenfield

John has lived in Chicago since 1989 and has worked a number of bicycle jobs, from messenger to mechanic to managing the Chicago Department of Transportation's bicycle parking program, arranging the installation of over 3,700 bike racks. He writes regularly for Time Out Chicago, Newcity, Momentum and Urban Velo magazines and works at Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square.

18 thoughts on “Stealth River Route III: Diversey to Montrose”

  1. Thank you, John, for the savvy capsules on bike routes in Chicago…though not a rider myself, you have opened my mind to new possibilities and are painting a picture of Chicago bike culture that reaches beyond my limited perspective…keep ’em coming!

  2. Nice piece.  There is a plan with funding to add “under-bridge” connections at Addison and Irving Park, like those further north at Foster, Bryn Mawr and Lincoln/Peterson, so that you could ride under these main streets rather than having to stop for traffic.  Couldn’t hurt to call Ald. Pawar & Ald. Mell and tell them you support the plan.

    Minor correction – as the owner of the canoe rental business where that guy is fishing, I’m reasonably sure that’s a common carp and not one of the fabled Asian Carps (technically silver carp & bighead carp).  We see common carps there all the time, looking like that, big ones!  I’ve never seen an Asian carp there, nor have the many governmental searches turned up any.  While it’s difficult to see in the photo, the asian carps are “low-eyed” (their species name is hypophthalmichthis – hyp=low; ophthalm=eye.  That fish doesn’t look like its eyes are aimed downward.

    Okay.  My science lesson is over.  Thanks for a nice article.

    1. It’s very possible I misunderstood the guy. He told me it was a carp and I asked if it was an Asian carp and thought he confirmed it was. Let’s assume it wasn’t – I’ll edit the post accordingly. Thanks!

  3. going north of Lawrence through River park along the river is an amazing adventure. on Sunday mornings there are serious soccer games going on most of the year and in the
    summertime games of Cricket. the biking along the path that eventually leads to Skokie
    and the sculpture walk is filled with interesting critters. who would have thunk that you 
    can routinely see Egrets and Hawks right in the middle of a major metropolis on a bike 
    path along the Chicago river. 
    be well,  Ross Cannon

    1. There are cricket games happening in Chicago? I really want to see that.
      When I lived in the far west suburb of Batavia, I would bike along the Fox River trails every month. There were always egrets and herons to spot. Very pretty birds.

  4. Great article. Will have to ride this Stealth River Route. I’ve done pieces of it but never put them together in this way. Thanks for the laying it all out in such a compelling fashion. Very inspiring. Greg Borzo

  5. Great article John. I’d like to add a secret cut-through, making your route even more stealth.
    After leaving Clark Park (w/boat launch) on Rockwell, a rider can cross Addison at the light, rather than head east to Campbell. Heading north here you go between the McD’s and the City of Chicago Licensing Facility. Behind which is a parking lot with an open ped gate. Riding through the ped gate takes you into WGN’s parking lot. (A cool note here, is the helicopter pad adjacent to the parking lot). Riding through WGN’s parking lot takes you to Bradley place, where you turn east for a bit before taking the sidewalk passage north to Campbell/Grace. I learned about this segment riding home from Uptown with Alex Wilson etal. after a Critical Mass many years ago.

      1. The helipad was installed not long after WGN built the studio (circa 1960). When I was growing up nearby, we called that area The Hills. It was the abandoned Mid-City golf course. All of us kids used to ride our 24″ clunker bikes up and down and around. When you’re 6 or 7 years old, that was a big area.

  6. Cool ride. Since it’s in my ‘hood, I’m familiar with most of it. Kind of wonder about the carp segment. Your original post said ‘Asian carp’. From the photo, I’ll guess that it’s our old Chicago River carp. I hope so, as there are a whole lot of Gov’t agencies that would like to know if it’s the former.
    Keep on Pedalin’.

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