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Slough drainage, restoration project ensures future beauty

From living it up at SloughFest to chilling at the Brew, Augustana College’s Slough offers something for everyone at every season. 

The changing autumn leaves beckon all of campus to stroll the Slough Path as decades of students, faculty and community members have done before. Vikings are advised to soak up these fall walks along their beloved Slough now as upcoming changes will temporarily disrupt this beautiful corner of campus.

President Andrea Talentino and her family on a bridge that crosses the Slough

President Andrea Talentino and her family on one of their many Slough walks. 

Slough improvements ahead

On Nov. 11, crews from the City of Rock Island will begin draining the Slough in order to relocate a water pipe. The project, which will move a primary water line from under the Slough to under the Slough Path, will allow for easier access to the pipe in the event of future needed repairs.

Kirk Anderson, chief financial officer and vice president of administration, said this work is being done to ensure the Slough is well maintained for many decades.

“We’ve partnered with the city on this planned improvement to ensure minimal disruption to campus and to pave the way for a healthy and vibrant Slough going forward,” he said. 

City council members approved the work on Oct. 9, with this city-funded project aimed at preventing another incident like the one in June 2017, when an old city pipe under the Slough collapsed and flooded parts of lower campus. 

The Slough Path is expected to remain open for campus and community use through the fall semester, with a short closure planned during the January term as the project moves into its final phase. Work is expected to be completed by the start of the spring semester in February. At that time, the Slough will be fully restored. 

The Slough is not only a walking path, but also a spot for relaxing in the gazebo or a place to battle it out during the Homecoming regatta. Faculty and students each year conduct research projects, monitoring the Slough’s water quality and the health of the animals and plants which call it home. Leaders of ongoing projects were notified in advance of this work and they have made necessary adjustments. 

The city and college will work together to protect the turtles and other native species in the Slough.

Students in the 2022 Homecoming boat regatta
Students in the 2022 Homecoming boat regatta.

An icon of campus

According to “An Augustana Campus History,” an increase of student residence halls in the 1960s prompted the need for a walkway between upper and lower campus. A plan was developed to fill in the ravine on campus and add a safe walkway for students. A $121,000 improvement project included partially filling in the ravine, installing lighting and creating a walkway with a crushed rock surface.

In 2005 the walkway was named the Swanie Slough Path in memory of longtime Campus Chaplain Richard Swanson. 

Construction of the nearby Memorial Amphitheatre began in 1953, and it was dedicated in 1957. The terraced steps and stage of the amphitheatre were destroyed in 1982 when the Slough was dredged. 

According to Special Assistant to the President Kai Swanson ’86, Pastor Swanson’s son, much of campus was once covered by streams. Beginning in the early 1900s, the city made topographical changes to smooth out 7th Avenue to permit commercial traffic. In the process, the streams were buried in a culvert that runs all the way to the Mississippi River. 

The college continued making similar changes to create space for campus infrastructure. At the time of the construction of the Tredway Library, the Slough Path was paved, and the water was extended farther out into the Quad.   

“Those changes better equipped the Slough to handle more severe weather events and prevent flooding elsewhere on campus,” Swanson said. 

A bridge spanning the Slough and ravine created an ADA-accessible walkway between upper and lower campus in 2009, meaning faculty and staff no longer had to walk down 38th Street to reach the lower campus. 

In February 2022, the bridge was named Obama Bridge, in honor of the former president who helped secure funding for it when he was a junior senator from Illinois. 

President Andrea Talentino said her family has loved strolling the Slough Path, particularly her dogs Oscar and Bella.

“Augustana is blessed with gorgeous grounds, and the Slough is just one of the well-known jewels of campus,” she said. “We’re grateful to partner with the city on this improvement and to have this work ultimately improve our Slough Path and surroundings."


Nicole Lauer, 309-794-7645; 

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