The Southeast Sportsmen Club, located in Hegewisch just off Wolf Lake, emerged as a local organization in 1936. The wetlands of the Calumet region had, historically, attracted hunters and fishers in the days before the steel mills. The Club appealed to those who remained interested in fishing and hunting in Wolf Lake and its environs, despite the fact that much of the original wetlands had been filled in with waste or slag from the steel mills or used for housing. In the 1940s, the Southeast Sportsmen Club was instrumental in pushing local and state officials to begin creating the William W. Powers State Recreation Area on Wolf Lake and to keep the remaining wetland areas of Southeast Chicago from meeting a similar fate. Later, Chicago city government made an agreement to conserve part of Wolf Lake in exchange for allowing sand mining in other parts that would be used to help build the Chicago skyway in the mid-1950s.
A former President of the Sportsmen Club Augie, Ruf, Jr., an area policeman whose family lived in Southeast Chicago since the late 19th century, gave an oral history with Museum volunteers in 1996. He recalled , “This was a group of men, all working men from the Southeast Side, who wanted to form one group of hundreds of fishermen with a common goal… They wanted to join a group of people and to practice conservation. Conservation in those days is probably what environmental protection means now. We wanted to hunt and fish. And we wanted to do it in lawful restrictive ways so we wouldn’t destroy everything. Obviously some of the things were destroyed anyhow because of industrialization.” The William Powers area is the only state park and conservation area within Chicago city limits. The Southeast Chicago Sportsmen Club also pushed for conservation of Lake Calumet in Southeast Chicago although with less success. These two areas are the only two that allow hunting in the city of Chicago. The Sportsmen Club donated a sizable collection of photographs of its activities from the 1940s to the Southeast Historical Project. The photos depict members fishing, raising and releasing pheasants for shooting, hunting fox, and engaging in social events. Later, the group would also become active in addressing industrial pollution.