The extent of contamination in river sediments is often not rigorously evaluated. In many cases, only surface sediment samples are taken. In other cases, entire sediment cores are composited for analysis, an approach that limits the ability to identify discrete zones of contamination. In addition, few studies include information on the rate of sedimentation. Composited sediment cores, subsamples of cores made at discrete intervals, and surface samples were obtained from locations in the West Branch of the Grand Calumet River. The organic carbon content and concentrations of up to 26 major, minor, and trace elements were determined. Sedimentation rates at the ten locations were estimated using 137Cs. The mean concentrations of metals in the surface samples were considerably higher than concentrations in samples obtained by the two coring approaches. Only by analyzing discrete subsamples was it possible to plot the concentrations by depth and location. This approach was used to demonstrate that high levels of organic carbon and trace elements are confined between river miles 5 and 7.5. Sedimentation rate information combined with chemical analyses of the same cores indicate that contamination of this part of the river began in the 1930s.