When I think of the Chicago River, my mind tends to lean toward images of the river being dyed green for Saint Patrick's Day, not for a refreshing dip. So, I was more than a little surprised to learn that a movement is afoot to make the Chicago River "swim-able."

The man in the photo above, S.S. Nichol, is pictured here in 1909, as he prepares to take part in a marathon swim of the Chicago River. Not only were there marathon swims of the river at that time, the competition drew a large group of spectators:

Getty Images
Getty Images
Getty Images

Now, according to a piece in the Chicago Sun-Times by Mark Brown, there's been some talk about making the Chicago River "swimmer safe" by 2020. A couple of local Chicago swimmers say that timetable is too long. They've proposed an "open-water swim race" to take place on the main stem of the river through downtown, and they'd like to see it happen as early as next year.

Don Macdonald of Wrigleyville and Douglas McConnell of Barrington are seeking to hold a “test swim” on Sunday, Oct. 23, that would be open only to an invited group of elite swimmers.

Macdonald said the test swim would include only experienced open water swimmers, the type of folks who swim the English Channel, including the promoters themselves.

Macdonald said he fell short in his attempt to cross the Channel, but McConnell was successful. He said they have conducted or participated in similar swim events all over the world, including the Hudson River in New York and Boston Harbor.

I have to agree with Mark Brown when he points out that:

If a bunch of elite swimmers want to get a face full of some of the stuff I see floating in the river, and in the process perhaps raise some money for charity, I see no reason to let the air out of anyone’s floaties.

Plus, after all we heard about the waters around Rio during the Olympics, how bad can Chicago's river be? Could it be worse than what this guy encountered in the waters near Santa Barbara, California?