Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I&M Canal: Replica Canal Boat Rides in La Salle, IL

One of the many reminders of the 19th century ingenuity that led to modern American is the Illinois & Michigan Canal that runs from Chicago to La Salle, IL.

Completed in 1848, the 61-mile canal was created to form a link between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico (connecting Lake Michigan with the Illinois River, which connects to the Mighty Mississippi and, eventually, the Gulf).

Workers came from across the globe to help dig and build the canal. Many towns between Chicago and La Salle (such as my hometown of Morris) owe their very existence to the canal. We will feature a number of these towns here on this blog in the future (we already featured Seneca a few weeks ago), and today we feature the canal's end point in La Salle.

A few years ago, with the help of government funding, a replica canal boat was constructed in La Salle, in conjunction with the Lock 16 visitors center, on which visitors can take a short ride up the canal. The 60-minute ride features narration from a docent in period dress (the entire crew is in costume), as well as the ability to meet Larry and Mo, the two mules responsible for pulling the canal boat.

The Canal Corridor Association hopes to extend the boat rides (pending further funding, I believe), but the short ride is worth it, and perfect for small children. You can event host special events on the boat.

It's a great history lesson, and the docent who hosted our ride provided a great look at the rough-and-tumble experiences of those who worked long days and hours (many died) for very little pay to build the canal.

The canal doesn't look like much today, but it was a huge factor in Chicago becoming a major metropolitan center, and for the growth of much of north Central Illinois.

I feature a few photos from our visit above, and you can view more in the slideshow below:

No comments:

Post a Comment