Thursday, October 09, 2014

I&M Canal NHC at 30: Channahon State Park

I&M Canal Passage at
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. Ronald Reagan signed the legislation into law that created a different kind of national park; while the National Park Service would provide guidance for I&M Canal Corridor, this new type of park, the first of its kind, would be a local endeavor.

There are now 50 National Heritage Areas.

As you may have read earlier in this space, I visited the Corridor on August 24--its birthday. While standing with Little Marathon Pundit in Willow Springs on the I&M Canal Trail, I wondered, "What is at the other end?"

On Monday and Tuesday I traveled to Peru in LaSalle County, where the canal meets the Illinois River. Spoiler alert: Yes, I found out.

The I&M Canal, which opened in 1848, connected the watersheds of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, it started in Bridgeport on Chicago's South Side. The Chicago portion has been filled in, but it's still a well-traveled route, it's now the usually congested Stevenson Expressway. The I&M closed to commercial traffic in 1933, it was superseded by the much larger Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

The trailhead of the state-sanctioned trail is at Channahon State Park. And that is where this series begins.

The fall colors are just beginning to emerge along the canal.

Although Illinois is notoriously flat, the I&M still requires locks. Pictured here is Lock Number 6, the next few photos will be of the same lock.

A man fishes in front of the lock. Across the canal is the restored locktender's house. On the left is the I&M Trail, which consists of crushed gravel. It was built on the old towpath that mules used to pull barges.

The passageway is as narrow as it looks.

That's a sluice gate--with lots of algae. There are no entrance fees at Illinois state parks, and for the most part you get what you pay for--but it also means there are not a plethora of busy-body rangers telling you what you can do and what you can't--unlike in sites run by the National Park Service. So I was able to hop all over these locks and snap some fabulous photographs.

Gate Number 7 is nearby. On a personal note, there used to be a 25K race that ran mostly on the I&M Trail, it was one of my favorite races.

Also nearby is the DuPage River, which flows into the Des Plaines River at Channahon. The name of the town comes from an Indian word meaning, "where the waters meet." A few miles southwest of Channahon, the Des Plaines and the Kankakee rivers meet, forming the Illinois River.

I took this picture of the Des Plaines River just east of Channahon. There are some stunningly beautiful clouds here and in the next photo.

Just before Lock Number 6 is this low-head dam on the DuPage.

Next: Briscoe Mounds

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