Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 21, 2011 Wednesday – Bureau, Illinois to Morris, Illinois (55 miles)

Canal Boat near LaSalle, Illinois

I & M Canal near it's Origin - LaSalle, Illinois - Illinois River
The ride today took Cal from the end of the Hennepin Canal in Bureau, Illinois, to LaSalle, Illinois where the I & M Canal began, then down the towpath of the I & M to Morris, Illinois.  The towpath with a few exceptions was either gravel or finely crushed rock.  This type of surface takes more effort and slows Cal’s progress by several miles per hour.  Cal has approximately 50 miles remaining of the I & M to complete tomorrow.

The Parkway is well marked with educational signage in a park at the western origin of the canal, as well as along the canal.  I was able to read the signage in the park and Cal told me about the info provided along the route.
The I & M canal was completed in 1848 and was operational until 1933, nearly a 100 years.  It connected Lake Michigan, via the Chicago River to the Illinois River, a little over 90 miles. Abraham Lincoln who was in Congress at the time was a strong supporter and he attended the inauguration of the canal along with his family. The existence of the canal gave merchants the opportunity to both send and receive good/products from Chicago. The canal caused the origin of numerous towns along the canal.  The cargo barges were pulled by horses, mules or oxen. The animals were usually tended/driven by 15-19 year old boys who were known for their swearing and fighting.  One of the more notorious was “Wild Bill Hickok”. 

A typical boat could carry 150 ton, compared with current barges that carry 1500 ton, 10 times more capacity.  Add to that the fact that a single tug boat on either the Illinois or Mississippi rivers, usually push 9 barges. The I & M canal itself has not been maintained since they stopped using it in 1933, therefore much of it is dry with trees growing in what was the actual canal.  Later in the 1930’s, during the depression, the towpath was converted to a recreational pathway by the CCC (Civil Conservation Corp), which it is to this day.  The canal was also used during the Underground Railroad days.  On one occasion the local people actually took a slave from the US Marshals and smuggled the person to freedom.

Typical Canal barge

Canal Collector's Office

Current Bike Trail - Original Canal to the Left

Current Bike/Recreational Trail
The history of the canal is very interesting.

A change in plans! The other weekend while we were in Chicago, we made plans to stay with one of Cal’s District Governor Classmates.  This morning while making final arrangements, he invited us to a Rotary function in downtown Chicago – a dressy event; however we do not have dressy clothes with us!  So today I went shopping for clothes! Hard job!!! Tonight we shopped for a white shirt and tie for Cal.  So I think we will look presentable!  We’ll give you a report later.

 I think it is time to close for tonight.    

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