secret treasure – the I & M canal

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”

Turtles were out sunning all along the canal

Turtles were out sunning all along the canal

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.

100 miles of labor, view from one of the many bridges

100 miles of labor, view from one of the many bridges

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.

Hot dogs in lockport - our other choice was a vegan place named "naked and raw" - but we had clothes today.

Hot dogs in lockport – our other choice was a vegan place named “naked and raw” – but we had clothes today.

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.

Just 17 feet wide, the locks limited the boat and cargo size

Just 17 feet wide, the locks limited the boat and cargo size

Here the canal parallels the Desplaines river.

How does this guy keep ruining the view ?

How does this guy keep ruining the view ?

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.

Jo-Doh's sweet roll with maple frosting and bacon good thing 50 miles burns about 2500 calories

Jo-Doh’s sweet roll with maple frosting and bacon
good thing 50 miles burns about 2500 calories


17 Comments on “secret treasure – the I & M canal”

  1. I’ve always been fascinated by stories like this since my grandfather was a civil engineer and worked in flood control. In fact, my mother was born in Missouri as he worked his way to Calfornia.

  2. Eric Alagan says:

    25 miles each way – Wow! – quite a ride, that!

    Raw & Naked vs Hot Dogs > if it were only literal šŸ™‚

    Cheers,
    Eric
    P/s This brought me a chuckle – “How does this guy keep ruining the view?”

  3. Clanmother says:

    Oh that Jo-Doh’s sweet roll looks soooo good…it is worth the 50 miles.

  4. ivyon says:

    A perfect day for me… Nature, activites, with loved ones and..FOOD! šŸ™‚

  5. I loved learning about the history of the canal! It sounds like the perfect route for cycling especially if one can indulge in a bacon sweet roll!
    Diana xo

    • billgncs says:

      at one point, Illinois was almost bankrupt ( just like now ) so they paid off the workers ( usually second sons of European families with land. What a boon for those who could work the land – it really bought them out of indentured servitude. I am sure some of those families are the “high and mighty” now šŸ™‚

      • Land is worth more than coin and paper whose worth is determined on the whim of some government guy or banker anyway!

        • billgncs says:

          Imagine, having to leave Ireland during the potato famine ( a year Ireland exported wheat to England ) and working back breaking labor, little better than a slave – and ending up with a parcel of land to call your own.

  6. I woud love the wildlife.

  7. Resa says:

    I love the history in this post! Well done! šŸ™‚
    Of course the “He man” versus “Vegan” lunches made me laugh! šŸ˜‰
    I had no idea bike riding could burn so many calories, and I’m liking the sounds of that!

  8. susank456 says:

    That looks very tasty, you are making me hungry.

  9. Bumba says:

    Interesting post. Sounds like a great ride.


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