St Patrick’s Day Chicago River Dyed Green ☘️

St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated every year on March 17th, is a cultural and religious holiday honoring the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. While the holiday originated in Ireland, it is celebrated by millions of people around the world.

One city that has made this holiday its own is Chicago, Illinois. The city is known for its unique tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

History of the Chicago River Dyed Tradition

The tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green began over half a century ago. The idea was first conceived in 1961 when Stephen Bailey, a business manager of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union, noticed that a plumber’s white coveralls had been stained green.

The plumber had been pouring dye into the river to check for illegal sewage discharges. Bailey thought it would be a great idea to use the dye to turn the river green for St. Patrick’s Day.

The following year, in 1962, the Chicago River was dyed green for the first time, and a tradition was born.

The tradition has evolved over the years, with the responsibility of dyeing the river passing down through generations of two families, the Butlers and the Rowans.

These families have been entrusted with the task of turning the river emerald green every year, a task they carry out with pride and dedication.

The Process of Dyeing Chicago River Green

The process of dyeing the Chicago River green is a carefully orchestrated event that takes place on the morning of the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The Butler and the Rowan families, who have been part of this tradition for generations, are in charge of the process. They navigate the river in two boats.

The larger boat holds the dye – a secret formula known only to these families. The smaller boat follows, stirring up the dye to spread the color. The dye is initially orange, but it turns a vibrant green when mixed with the water.

Time Table for 2024 and Best Spots to View the Chicago River Dyeing

The tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green takes place on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day. In 2024, the event is scheduled for Saturday, March 16. The process begins at 10 a.m. and lasts for about 45 minutes. The dyeing takes place between State Street and Columbus Drive.

Here’s the timetable for the event in 2024

10:00 a.m.Start of the river dyeing
10:45 a.m.End of the river dyeing

Best Spots to View the Chicago River Dyeing

As for the best spots to view this spectacle, here are some recommendations.

  1. Chicago Riverwalk: This is a popular spot for viewing the river dyeing. For the best views, head for the portion of the walkway between Columbus Drive and State Street.
  2. Michigan Avenue Bridge: Situated in the middle of Columbus Drive and State Street where the river dyeing action takes place, the Michigan Avenue Bridge is one of the most popular spots to get a view of the festivities.
  3. State Street Bridge: Gaze down on the western end of the Chicago River dyeing from atop the State Street bridge.
  4. LondonHouse Chicago: If you’re looking for a great view of the river combined with a great party, LondonHouse is your place to go.
  5. Pizzeria Portofino: This place offers incredible views of the river.

Remember, these spots can get crowded, so it’s recommended to arrive early to secure a good viewing spot

How Long Does the Chicago River Stay Green?

The duration of the green color in the river can vary depending on the weather and the amount of movement in the water.

On average, the river stays green for about five hours. However, in ideal conditions, the green hue can last for up to a couple of days.

It’s a sight that draws locals and tourists alike, adding to the festive atmosphere of St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago.

Is the Green Dye in the Chicago River Safe?

The safety of the dye used in this tradition has been a topic of discussion over the years. The original dye used was oil-based and was later found to be harmful to the river’s ecosystem.

In the early 1960s, the formula was changed to a vegetable-based dye, which is much safer for the environment.

The exact formula is a closely guarded secret, but officials assure that it is non-toxic and has no adverse effects on the local wildlife or the river’s ecosystem.

Significance and Impact

The tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green has become an integral part of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Chicago. It is a symbol of the city’s strong Irish heritage and its ability to throw a party.

The sight of the emerald-green river against the backdrop of the city’s skyline is a source of pride for Chicagoans and a draw for tourists.

The event also significantly contributes to the local economy as it attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Public Perception and Reactions to This Tradition

Public reactions to this tradition have been overwhelmingly positive. Many view it as a unique and fun way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

The tradition has also inspired other cities in the United States and around the world to adopt similar practices. However, it’s not just about the spectacle.

For many Chicagoans, it’s a cherished tradition that brings the community together and celebrates their city’s vibrant history and culture.

Environmental Considerations

While the tradition is a cause for celebration, it has not been without its environmental concerns. The original oil-based dye used was harmful to the river’s ecosystem.

However, the switch to a vegetable-based dye in the early 1960s addressed these concerns. The current dye is environmentally friendly and safe for the local wildlife.

The city takes great care to ensure that the tradition is carried out in a way that is respectful to the environment.


The tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day is a testament to Chicago’s spirit of celebration and its respect for its cultural heritage.

It’s a unique spectacle that captures the imagination of both residents and visitors alike. As we look to the future, it’s clear that this tradition will continue to be a vibrant part of Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, bringing joy and unity to the city each year.


What is the significance of St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago?

St. Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland. In Chicago, it’s a grand celebration that includes parades, wearing of green attire, public feasting, and, of course, the dyeing of the Chicago River.

Who carries out the process of dyeing the river?

The dyeing of the river is carried out by the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union. They’ve been doing it since the tradition began in 1962.

What other events are associated with the dyeing of the river?

The dyeing of the river is usually accompanied by a parade and other festivities. It’s a day of celebration for the city of Chicago and attracts tourists from all over.

Has the event ever been canceled or postponed?

es, there have been instances where the event has been canceled or postponed due to various reasons such as weather conditions or public health concerns.

What is the public perception of this tradition?

The tradition is generally well-received by the public and is seen as a unique and fun way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. However, there are always differing opinions and some people express concerns about the environmental impact.

Are there any similar traditions in other cities?

While the dyeing of the Chicago River is unique, many cities around the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in their special ways. This can include parades, festivals, wearing green, and more.

When do they dye the river green in Chicago 2024?

The tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green takes place annually in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. In 2024, this event is scheduled for Saturday, March 16. The dyeing process begins at 10 a.m. local time.

How long does the Chicago river stay green?

The Chicago River, once dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day, retains its vibrant hue for about 24 to 48 hours. However, some sources suggest that the color may only persist for around four to five hours. The duration can vary depending on factors such as the amount of dye used and the river’s water conditions.