An abandoned canal, a beloved trail
It's gone, but not forgotten. No, it's not gone, either, it's just not really a canal anymore. It's a corridor, a trail, a channel dug through history. It's the Illinois and Michigan Canal. It helped build this city, for a while. We owe it a lot.
Looking west, somewhere between Aux Sable and Gebhard Woods.
I verbally exclaimed that this bridge is beautiful. Trail enthusiasts are probably familiar with it. We passed it somewhere between Gebhard Woods and Marseilles.
The next day...
We were warned about the condition of the trail between Marseilles and Ottawa, but I didn't mind at all. These marvelously muddy, gravelly, twiggy wooded trails are the reason I have a hybrid bike. As long as the underlying terraine is flat it can bump along just fine.
View down the Fox River from the Fox River aqueduct in Ottawa.
View upriver from the Fox River aqueduct.
Fox River aqueduct.
Ruins of a lock west of Ottawa.
Cliff and cave somewhere between Ottawa and Utica. I'm always thrilled to see exposed rock. You just don't see any around here.
Bridge over what's left of the canal between Ottawa and Utica.
Weird rock formation somewhere between Ottawa and Utica. Can anyone tell me more about it?
View of the Illinois River, or perhaps that small lake just north of it. Once again, all I know is that I was somewhere between Ottawa and Utica.
Pretty flowers growing in what's left of the canal. I remember this being definitely closer to Utica.
A lake north of the river, west of Utica.
Tunnel through Split Rock. Why build a tunnel when the rock is already split?
Between Split Rock, looking west.
Approaching Split Rock from the west, looking east. If your monitor is bright enough, you might be able to kind of see the rockface south of the path. You can see the bend in the trail around it.
End of the trail, south of Peru. I was rather disappointed. I was expecting a scenic overlook or something, but all they built was this, and then they added the world's most useless stop sign for some reason. There isn't even a kiosk anywhere. I picked my way through poison ivy and wild parsnip to get through the brush and see what I was missing, but all I got was an eyeful of something that reminded me of Lake Calumet and a terrible rash all over my leg. It just doesn't seem right--it's the fracking I&M Canal State Trail, the most celebrated trail in the state of Illinois, and this is how it ends?
But my disappointment (and sudden extreme itchiness) couldn't damp my feeling of victory. I have now ridden the entire I&M Canal State Trail, all the way from Rockdale to Peru--except for two small hiccups, one between Dresden and Aux Sable, and one between Marseilles and wherever the van picked me up on day 1. I doubt the total distance is more than five miles. I could easily take care of the first bit sometime if I could just wake up in the morning some Saturday, but I have no idea how the heck I could get myself all the way out to Marseilles. It would require lots of planning for an extended bike trip on my own, and I'm not very good at that. (Uh, Milwaukee?) Grr.
Well, any victory is still a victory; I'll take this one. And I'll be back someday. I too have fallen in love with this trail.
Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor (NPS)
I and M Canal National Heritage Corridor (Illinois DNR)
Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail
Canal Corridor Association
Heritage Corridor Convention & Visitors Bureau
Illinois and Michigan Canal (from Encyclopedia of Chicago)
Illinois & Michigan Canal Teaching Package (for folks who love original sources)
Illinois and Michigan Canal (from Wikipedia, for folks who don't)
Down the Drain: The I&M Canal (its part in the fascinating history of Chicago's sewer system)
Prairie Passage: The Illinois & Michigan Canal Corridor
The Chicago River: An Illustrated History and Guide the River and Its Waterways (why not)
City of Morris
Village of Seneca
City of Marseilles
City of Ottawa
Village of North Utica (bka Utica; btw let me know if I have my cities and villages mixed up)
City of LaSalle
City of Peru
Aux Sable Access
William G. Stratton State Park
Gebhard Woods State Park
Illini State Park
Fox River Aqueduct
Buffalo Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park
Matthiessen State Park
Pecumsaugan Creek-Blackball Mines Nature Preserve (location of Split Rock)
Locks 14 & 15 (LaSalle)
Illinois Waterway Visitors Center (Anyone know a better Web page?)