Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I&M Canal NHC at 30: Morris

US Route 6 near Morris
Moving west along the Illinois & Michigan Canal--and US Route 6--the next town is Morris, the seat of Grundy County. Although it's not within the city limits of Morris, the town is best known for the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant, which supplies much of the electricity for the Chicago area.

Morris was founded in 1842, six years before the opening of the I&M. It's a crossroads town, besides Route 6, Illinois Route 47 and Interstate 80 pass through Morris. As for athletics, Morris High School's football team has achieved great success, winning three state championships, the most recent of which was in 2005. Their sports teams are known as the Redskins--the Chicago newspapers rarely mention that--but the school has no plans to change the nickname.

But this series is about the canal.

Pictured here is canal-front property. The green film on of the water isn't algae, rather it's water meal, also known as duckweed. Although it looks gross, it's edible. Yum! On the right is the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail. It's 61 miles long. The trail, built on the old towpath, is composed of crushed limestone gravel. In this part of Morris the canal is the northern border of William G. Stratton State Park, one of the smallest units in Illinois' state park system. Stratton, a Republican who was governor from 1953-1961, was indicted for tax evasion four years after leaving the Executive Mansion, but he was acquitted of his charges. His successor, Democrat Otto Kerner, wasn't as fortunate. Nor were future governors Dan Walker, George Ryan, and Rod Blagojevich.

The view from Stratton Park facing north. While serving as governor, Stratton lived in Morris.

This is our first view of the Illinois River--this photograph was taken from Stratton. As for this park, it's really not much more than a few boat ramps and a parking lot.

I discovered three replica barges along the canal, this one, in Morris' Canal Port Park, is named "Heritage," short for National Heritage Corridor, I guess.

An old bridge over the canal.

The Gebhard Brewery near the canal didn't survive prohibition, however the building was later used as a flour house. It was later used as a flour house, but it has been abandoned for nearly 30 years. However, a group is trying to restore it.

This is what remains of the the old brewery's smokestack.

Morris is graced with two state parks, the other. Gebhard Woods, is another small park. The canal, when I was there last week, was dry.

Judging by the types of plants in the canal ditch, there is a need for that bridge in the background.

On the other hand, Nettle Creek was flowing fine in Gebhard during my visit.

Illinois' state parks have serious funding issues, something I will discuss in a later post.

Next: Seneca

Earlier posts:

1 comment:

Brian Blackmore said...

The Gebhard Brewery is for sale ! Please call Brian Blackmore of Caton Commercial RE Group at 630-207-8292 with any questions. The building has all new roofs, windows, and most clutter and debris has been removed. This 100+ year old former brewery was more recently used for manufacturing. It hasn't been used in several years, and is in need of repair. It is a conversion or restoration opportunity. The walls are true, and the foundation is sound. Brick facade needs tuck-pointing. Could be a site for a restaurant/brewery or bed and breakfast, or an office property. Windows were replaced in 2014-15.
The building sits on +/- 2 AC of land. Site is 1 block from the Morris Business District to the east, and just a few hundred feet from the I&M Canal Towpath to the to the south. This national parkway is a favorite of hiking and biking enthusiasts. On the west, just across a small creek is Gebhard Woods State Park.

650 W Washington. Where Washington St ends.