Illinois and Michigan Canal - a Packet Boat Excursion

Near LaSalle, Illinois

June 6, 2009

Consider the problem in the early to mid-19th century: Most commercal traffic traveled by barges and boats. The Great Lakes was one major commercial corridor. The Mississippi River was another. The Illinois River, which connects to the Mississippi River at Grafton, Illinois, is navigable all the way to LaSalle-Peru. How then to connect the Great Lakes commerce with the Mississippi River commerce? The solution: the Illinois and Michigan Canal.

The I & M Canal opened for business in 1848, running from Bridgeport, a Chicago neighborhood, to LaSalle-Peru for a distance of 97 miles. Over that distance, there are 17 locks and 4 aqueducts where the canal runs over tributaries to the Illinois River. The canal remained in use until 1933. Currently the canal is a part of the National Heritage Corridor.

I & M Canal This boat took us on an excursion up the I and M Canal. It is a replica of the packet boats that traveled the I and M canal during the late 19th century. Packet boats were barges that carried passengers and packets of mail.
I & M Canal Behind the boat is a lock. Beyond the lock is the Illinois river.
I & M Canal This is the other side of the lock. Overhead you can see the bridge where I took the first two pictures.
I & M Canal A mule, guided by a mule skinner, pulled us against the current.
I & M Canal Mule and mule skinner
I & M Canal This is a view of an aqueduct. The canal goes over a small stream.

One of several comments that I got on this page - this one from a long time resident of Peru.

These are views I pass every Monday on my way to painting class. When you have something like this going on in your back yard, it doesn't seem so great. I think that it is the same with anything that is right in front of you. There are a lot of items in our local paper about the happenings there, especially when the mules got away, and had to be rounded up. Also during our floods of the low areas south of town.

When we were young, we used to hike on the tow path all the way to Utica. We would make a day of it, looking into the caves on the north side of the canal. At one time, the canal was dry and people actually had gardens planted there. I think this was during the war years (1940's)

--- Cousin Millie