Joined: Dec 2010
Location: Far West Chicago Burbs
The Hennepin Canal, turn of the century bridges / lock
I have always kind of heard about the Hennepin Canal. But, hey, not much about Illinois is cool or interesting right? Since getting back on the bike, I’ve been looking for things around here to explore and the canal came across again and again on my google earth searches for abandoned bridges. It didn’t take long to realize there was something unique about this.
More research revealed this was another example of screwed up Illinois politics and a great example of the state at its finest in the same breath.
“The Hennepin canal was first conceived in 1834 as a connection between the Illinois and Mississippi River, but financial problems in the state delayed many public works projects. Construction began in 1892 and the first boat went through in 1907, reducing the distance from Chicago to Rock Island by 419 miles (674 km). While the canal was under construction, however, the Corps of Engineers undertook a widening of the locks on both the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. The new locks on those rivers were twenty and forty feet wider than the canal locks, making them obsolete before their initial use.”
So, the BS politics created decades of hesitation. By the time it was built, Illinois was once again too far behind and the canal was obsolete by its opening. I have heard and read that the canal was finally built to serve as a laboratory study for the Panama canal. Parts of that conspiracy theory do make sense, and I heard old timers saying the same thing on this trip, so it must also be a part of local folklore.
I tend to believe it. Why else would there be so many variances in the locks? There are span, lift, and slide bridges. This thing is a lab of various engineering strategies that were cutting edge at the time.
“The Hennepin was the first American canal built of concrete without stone cut facings. Although the Hennepin enjoyed only limited success as a waterway, engineering innovations used in its construction were a bonus to the construction industry. The canal was used as a training ground for engineers that later worked on the Panama Canal. Both the Hennepin and Panama Canals 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.’”
I had to check it out. With “closed on Fridays” summer hours, I took off Thursday around 4 and headed down to my buddy’s house in Peru, IL. Spend the night. From there, a short ride would get me to Bureau Junction which holds locks 2 and 3 and the beginning of the canal.
The ride to Dave’s was an easy and smooth 80 miles or so. Couldn’t help but grab this pic. These things always draw me in!
Stopped off at the Indian Creek Massacre site. A very cool park is there now and some pretty interesting history. An old man was there riding a quad and picking up debris. The cool things was his dog would wait until that quad came to a complete stop before jumping off and digging, barking, or getting petted by me. Didn’t get his name!
Here is a day ride I did there with my wife explaining a little more about the history.
Got to his house by 7. Grill, brews, and reserve whiskey. Great night with a T bone, stuffed mushrooms, and salad dinner. Didn’t get a pic of the food porn, but here is Dave with the precooked T Bones:
Couldn’t get a real pic of him cause he thought once I posted, he’d get all kinds of bikers stopping by his house. So, if you need a place to crash and get fed out that way, PM me and I’ll get you his address. He’ll love that!
Down there by the Illinois river, we get some great roads for this area. Morning found me heading down IL29 and just loving the road.
Bureau Junction houses locks 2 and 3. Lock 1 is only accessible in winter – you have to take the ice road. While it is named after Hennipen, that town is on the other side of the Il River.
Lock 2 gearing:
A common site – even in the extremely rural areas, people were fishing. I heard about the good fishing along the canal, so expected this. What I didn’t expect was to find three pairs of single women enjoying the day. ;-)
This was Julie and Sue just as Julie caught a little blue gill:
A common site was the moving water. At EVERY lock I saw, water was moving though we have not had much rain lately:
One of the features I really wanted to see were the Aqueducts. Basically, this carries the canal over existing creeks and rivers. The path to Aqueduct 3 was to cross this bridge. Maybe if my wife was here I would have shown off. Alone, I didn’t want to risk it:
Lock 11 was awesome. The lock was the same as the previous, but the original span bridge was still operational – barely. It was a two track, dirt gravel road to get to it. Way too cool and the Connie did just fine.
Here is the bike on the 1900 bridge with the lock behind it:
Bridge to dirt:
Now, most of the span bridges are closed / don’t function. A perfect example of that is at lock 14:
You shouldn’t really graffiti anything that starts with 18!!!
... more to come....
alekkas screwed with this post 06-09-2012 at 08:38 PM