Little Calumet-Galien Watershed

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Watershed Overview

The Little Calumet River is located in northwest Indiana, stretching from Michigan City to just inside the Illinois border. The watershed area is 723 square miles.

The Little Calumet River flows through or borders the towns of Blue Island, Dixmoor, Phoenix, Riverdale, Harvey, Calumet City, Lansing, Dolton, and South Holland in Illinois and Hammond, Munster, Griffith, Highland, Gary, Lake Station, Portage, Burns Harbor, Porter, and Chesterton in Indiana. The Little Calumet discharges into the Calumet River and the Cal-Sag Channel. The Little Calumet has 109 miles of mainstem and tributaries that drain 213 square miles. Ninety percent of the Little Calumet River's flow originates as municipal and industrial effluent, cooling and process water and storm water overflows. The Galien River is a stream in the southwest region of the State of Michigan. The river discharges into Lake Michigan in the city of New Buffalo.

The Grand Calumet Area of Concern (AOC) is located within the Little Calumet – Galien Watershed, (in addition to being located within the Chicago River and Chicago-Lake Michigan watersheds). Although contaminated discharges have been reduced, a number of historic contaminants continue to impair the AOC.

Additional information is available at Michigan State University's Institute for Water Research's Digital Watershed Tool for the Little Calument-Galien Watershed. This site has interactive watershed-based information on industrial facilities discharge sites, toxic release inventory, permit compliance system, water quality stations, bacteria stations, national sediment inventory stations, best management practices, water quality observation stations, weather data stations, impaired waters (reach and area), landcover change (1992-2001), landuse 2001, soil, and elevation.

Land Use

The watershed is heavily developed and is one of the most industrialized watersheds in the Lake Michigan basin with developed lands comprising almost 20 percent of the watershed. Farmland makes up almost 40 percent, and forested lands comprising about 27 percent of the watershed. Between 1996 and 2001, there has been a slight increase in developed and wetland areas and a slight decrease in cultivated land, and grassland.

Most coastal wetlands and near shore aquatic habitats have been eliminated or degraded. Presettlement northwest Indiana was continuous wetland. As of 1979, less than 5 percent of the original wetland cover remained. Currently, the majority of remaining wetlands exist primarily as narrow strips of intact habitat. Industry filled or drained the wetlands and leveled the dunes and used steel slag to fill low areas and the lakefront.

Natural Resources

Important environmental resources remain in the watershed. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, has more plant species (including invasive species) than all but two other national parks, and at 16,000 acres, is much smaller than most other national parks. The Indiana Dunes contain Mesic Sand Tallgrass Prairie and Black Oak / Lupine Barrens, sandy beach/dunes with sand and gravel lag over clay nearshore, sandy beach/dunes with sand/gravel nearshore, and sandy coastal dune streams. Important plant communities at Indiana Tolleston include Black Oak / Lupine Barrens, Bulrush - Cattail - Burreed Shallow Marsh, Central Cordgrass Wet Sand Prairie, Hardhack Shrub Prairie, Interdunal Wetland, Lakeplain Wet Prairie, Lakeplain Wet-Mesic Prairie, Mesic Sand Tallgrass Prairie, and Midwest Cattail Deep Marsh, among others. The Indiana Dunes is also an important migratory bird and raptor stopover site.

Additionally, the Nature Conservancy has identified critical environmental resources in the watershed, including the following:

  • The Hoosier Prairie in Lake County, Indiana is home to the Pale False Foxglove, identified by the Nature Conservancy as a critical species in the Great Lakes basin.
  • The Tolleston Strand Plain in Lake County is home to Pale False Foxglove, Karner Blue Butterfly, Blanding's Turtle, Byssus Skipper, Great Plains Ladies' Tresses, Hill's Thistle, and Ottoe's Skipper.
  • The Galien River has Great Lakes Shoreline Cattail Marsh. The Warren Dunes-Grand Mere has a land bird stopover site where Acadian Flycatcher, American Woodcock, Baltimore Oriole, Black-billed Cuckoo, Blue-winged Warbler, Canada Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Chimney Swift, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Field Sparrow, Hooded Warbler, Least Flycatcher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Marsh Wren, Prairie Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Veery Warbling Vireo, Willow Flycatcher, Wood Duck, Wood Thrush, Worm-eating Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Pitcher's Thistle can be seen.


Warren Dunes State Park, which is located in the watershed, provides 1,950 acres of recreational opportunities along the beautiful shoreline of Lake Michigan in southwestern Michigan. The rugged dune formation rises 240 feet above the lake. The park has more than two miles of shoreline, six miles of hiking trails and is open year-round.

Water Supply

Most of the area is served by Lake Michigan water.

Watershed Activities

  • The Galien River Watershed Project is focused on decreasing drainage and flooding problems along the mainstem and its tributaries. The focus of a 319 grant is flood prevention and improved water quality in the system. Beneficiaries will be local farmers and those interested in fishing and other recreational activities.
  • Save the Dunes Conservation Fund developed a watershed plan for the Dunes Creek watershed. Also included in the project is a study to assess the efficacy of a pilot wetland restoration site along a section of Dunes Creek. Study results will be included in the final written summary project report. Public outreach activities will include outreach brochures, news releases about the project, and quarterly newsletters, e-mail, or website articles.
  • The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is requiring the development of long-term combined sewer overflow control plans for communities with combined sewers

The Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission developed a Greenways and Blueways plan. The goals of the plan are:

  • Create a vision for greenway preservation and water trail development in NW Indiana
  • Create a conversation among stakeholders on the attributes inherent in greenway development and conservation
  • Provide an interactive resource for local and county jurisdictions to utilize as they develop their visions and plans and negotiate development proposals that affect their remaining open space corridors
  • Facilitate active discussion on potential water trail opportunities
  • Detail the financial incentives available that encourage and support private and public greenway initiatives
  • Highlight the many not-for-profit environmental organizations in the region with expertise in working with private and public landowners to protect and restore greenways

The plan can be viewed at NIPC's website. Additional information on the plan is found in the Greenways and Blueways Plan

  • Illinois DNR is developing a new coastal zone management program in the Illinois portion of the Lake Michigan basin. The plan is being developed using the Watershed Central wiki site to coordinate coastal activities, restoration, and protection throughout the region.

Grand Calumet Area of Concern

The Grand Calumet River Area of Concern (AOC) It is one of 30 US or binational AOCs. It begins 15 miles (24 km) south of downtown Chicago and includes the east branch of the river, a small segment of the west branch and the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal. Today, 90% of the river's flow originates as municipal and industrial effluent, cooling and process water and storm water overflows. Although discharges have been reduced, a number of contaminants continue to impair the AOC.

The largest extent of the impairment to the AOC come from the legacy pollutants found in the sediments at the bottom of the Grand Calumet River and Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal. Problems in the AOC include contamination from polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals, such as mercury, cadmium, chromium and lead. Additional problems include high fecal coliform bacteria levels, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and suspended solids, oil and grease. These contaminants originated from both point and nonpoint sources. Nonpoint sources include:

For more information, see the USEPA “Surf Your Watershed” website for the Little Calumet-Galien watershed impaired waters or contact the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality at 517-335-6969 to request a copy of report number MI/DEQ/WD-03/054, “A Biological Survey Sites in the Galien River Watershed, Berrien County, Michigan, July 2002.”

Watershed Data and Information

USGS Water Resources Links for: 04040001 - Little Calumet-Galien

USGS State Information and Contacts:

Current Water Data:

All Water Data (Current and Historic Sites):

Other Data Links:

Current Regional/National Conditions:

Search USGS for Links, Publications and Web Sites Associated with:

EPA Links for the Little Calumet-Galien - HUC 04040001:

303d Watershed Impairments

Current information on watershed impairments can be found at the USEPA's website for the Little Calument-Galien Watershed


Watershed Groups Operating Within the Little-Calumet-Galien Watershed

For more information, see the USEPA “Surf Your Watershed” website or contact the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality at 517-335-6969 to request a copy of report number MI/DEQ/WD-03/054, “A Biological Survey Sites in the Galien River Watershed, Berrien County, Michigan, July 2002.”

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12 Digit Subwatersheds of the Little Calumet-Galien Watershed

Information on other Lake Michigan subwatersheds can be found at Lake Michigan Subwatershed Information


HUC Watershed Name
04040001 0101 Painterville Drain-Frontal Lake Michigan
04040001 0102 White Ditch-Frontal Lake Michigan
04040001 0103 West Branch Trail Creek
04040001 0104 East Branch Trail Creek
04040001 0105 Trail Creek
04040001 0201 Dowling Creek
04040001 0202 East Branch Galien River
04040001 0203 Blue Jay Creek-Galien River
04040001 0204 Spring Creek
04040001 0205 Headwaters South Branch Galien River
04040001 0206 South Branch Galien River
04040001 0207 Kirktown Creek-Galien River
04040001 0208 Galien River
04040001 0301 Sagers Lake-Salt Creek
04040001 0302 Clark Ditch-Salt Creek
04040001 0303 Squirrel Creek-Salt Creek
04040001 0401 Reynolds Creek-East Arm Little Calumet River
04040001 0402 Kemper Ditch-East Arm Little Calumet River
04040001 0403 Coffee Creek-East Arm Little Calumet River
04040001 0501 Headwaters Main Beaver Dam Ditch
04040001 0502 Main Beaver Dam Ditch-Deep River
04040001 0503 Headwaters Turkey Creek
04040001 0504 Deer Creek-Deep River
04040001 0505 City of Merrillville-Turkey Creek
04040001 0506 Duck Creek
04040001 0507 Lake George-Deep River
04040001 0508 Little Calumet River-Deep River
04040001 0509 Willow Creek-Burns Ditch
04040001 0601 Kintzele Ditch
04040001 0602 Dunes Creek
04040001 0603 Calumet River-Frontal Lake Michigan