Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hennepin Canal Trail Bike Ride

ride details:

cannondale hybrid.  rode from annawan to buerau junction, il via the hennepin canal trail.

elapsed time:  3 hr 20 min

miles: 36.31

ave speed 10.8 mph

i've always wanted to ride this canal trail, having crossed it numerous times on the way to the family farm. got my chance last week.  if you don't know the history of the canal, it is worth reading:

The Hennepin Canal played an important role in the history of the United States, and to commerce and industry, and the entire canal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thoughts of constructing a canal connecting the Illinois and Mississippi rivers date to 1834, but financial problems in the state held back many public works projects. Pressure for a transportation shortcut that was cheaper than rail continued though, and Congress authorized preliminary surveys on the project in 1871. Construction got under way in 1892 and the first boat, the Marion, went through in 1907, reducing the distance from Chicago to Rock Island by 419 miles. As the canal was under construction, the Corps of Engineers was widening the locks on both the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. With lock chambers 20 and 40 feet narrower than the rivers it connected, the canal was obsolete before the Marion made her initial voyage.

By the 1930s, the canal was used primarily for recreational traffic. The Hennepin and its sister canal, the I & M, tied the Illinois, Des Plaines and Mississippi river systems into a transportation network connecting Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico. The I & M was completed nearly 60 years earlier and helped make Chicago one of the nation's greatest cities. The Hennepin Canal, which at one time was known as the Illinois and Mississippi Canal, was open to boat traffic until 1951. There was no cost to use the canal. Ice made from the canal's frozen waters was sold during the winters to help pay the canal's maintenance costs.

The Hennepin was the first American canal built of concrete without stone cut facings. Although the Hennepin enjoyed limited success as a waterway, engineering innovations used in its construction were a bonus to the construction industry. Some of the innovations pioneered on the Hennepin Canal were probably used on the Panama Canal. Both used concrete lock chambers and both used a feeder canal from a man-made lake to water the canals because both needed water to flow ‘uphill.’

Of the 33 locks on the canal, 32 remain visible. The first one, on the Illinois River, has been under water since the 1930s. Fourteen of the locks had Marshall gates, which are unique to the Hennepin, and are raised and lowered on a horizontal axis, much like a rural mailbox. Five of the locks have been restored to working condition, although they are not used. The Hennepin originally had nine aqueducts -- concrete troughs which carried the canal and its traffic across larger rivers and streams. Today, six remain while the other three have been replaced by pipes that carry the canal flow under a creek or river. 

started off at 9:00 a.m., first stretch is semi-paved, but weedy, very ridable.  rolled into the visitor's center and stopped for water and trail info. there a bunch of really cool old locks and bridges to see along this path, and the surface varies between paved, semi-paved, crushed limestone, and close to bare dirt. saw several fisherman, stopped at a tiny grocery in tiskilwa, the kind you don't see anymore, and stopped for a bison burger on the way home.  a good morning, a good ride.

lily pads in canal near annawan

 bridge near sheffield, il

 examples of locks


No comments: