secret treasure – the I & M canalPosted: May 11, 2014
About 1840, knowing the plains rivers were to shallow and marshy to navigate with barges, Illinois decided to build a canal to link the heartland with the Missouri river. It was an epic task, and nearly driving the state bankrupt ( even than ) and it was dug by hand by immigrant labor. Within ten years of opening the canal Chicago went from 20,000 people to 100,000 people. The canal changed the Midwest.
Now, so long after it’s a water way with a bike path that follows where the mules and mule skinners ( men who drove them ) once trod.
We started at Willow Springs and our 25 mile ride each way traversed Lemont, Romeoville, Lockport, and Joliet. The trail is smooth and mostly paved and very lightly traveled. The scenery varies from water to woods to meadow to old industrial ruins. Birds were plentiful, we saw blue herons, a white egret, gold-finches, blue birds, a cormorant, hawks, geese, mallards and all the local varieties. Of course if my bike had a bumper-stiker it would be “I stop for turtles”
The trail is lined with historical markers, and the cost in lives and effort to dig this canal through dirt and stone for 96 miles and the benefits it brought make a good tale. But then true tales invoke the most wonder.
The trail is isolated, but at the towns one can break away for some grub. Of course we found a hotdog place for lunch near Lockport ( a town who owes it’s existence to the canal )
It was “a manly feast” and I say that because while we ate everyone who stopped in was of the male persuasion! All the females must have stopped at the vegan place nearby.
To navigate through the elevation change, the canal utilized locks. These locks were only 17 feet wide and the lock-keeper could operate them in 15 minutes. It must have been a sight to see with mules, boats and locks.
Here the canal parallels the Desplaines river.
It was a super ride, and imagine my surprise upon arriving home to find Jan had provided a sweet roll from Jo-Doh donut shop, a sweet roll with maple frosting and crumbled bacon. Now that’s the way to end a ride.