|Chicago is located in northeastern Illinois on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan. It is the principal city in Chicago Metropolitan Area situated in the Midwestern United States and the Great Lakes region. Chicago rests on a continental divide at the site of the Chicago Portage, connecting the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes watersheds. The city lies beside huge freshwater Lake Michigan, and two rivers—the Chicago River in downtown and the Calumet River in the industrial far South Side—flow entirely or partially through Chicago. Chicago’s history and economy are closely tied to its proximity to Lake Michigan. While the Chicago River historically handled much of the region’s waterborne cargo, today’s huge lake freighters use the city’s Lake Calumet Harbor on the South Side. The lake also provides another positive effect, moderating Chicago’s climate; making waterfront neighborhoods slightly warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
When Chicago was founded in 1833, most of the early building began around the mouth of the Chicago River, as can be seen on a map of the city’s original 58 blocks. The overall grade of the city’s central, built-up areas, is relatively consistent with the natural flatness of its overall natural geography, generally exhibiting only slight differentiation otherwise. The average land elevation is 579 ft (176 m) above sea level. The lowest points are along the lake shore at 578 ft (176 m), while the highest point, at 672 ft (205 m), is the morainal ridge of Blue Island in the city’s far south side.
Chicago Half Marathon on Lake Shore Drive next to Harold Washington Park on the South Side
The Chicago Loop is the central business district, but Chicago is also a city of neighborhoods. Lake Shore Drive runs adjacent to a large portion of Chicago’s lakefront. Some of the parks along the waterfront include Lincoln Park, Grant Park, Burnham Park and Jackson Park. Twenty-four public beaches are also found across 26 miles (42 km) of the waterfront. Landfill extends into portions of the lake providing space for Navy Pier, Northerly Island, the Museum Campus, and large portions of the McCormick Place Convention Center. Most of the city’s high-rise commercial and residential buildings can be found close to the waterfront.
An informal name for the entire Chicago metropolitan area is “Chicagoland”. There is no precise definition for the term “Chicagoland”, but it generally means the city and its suburbs combined together. The Chicago Tribune, which coined the term, includes the city of Chicago, the rest of Cook County, eight nearby Illinois counties: Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Grundy, Will and Kankakee, and three counties in Indiana: Lake, Porter and LaPorte. The Illinois Department of Tourism defines Chicagoland as Cook County without the city of Chicago, and only Lake, DuPage, Kane and Will counties. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce defines it as all of Cook and DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.