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Old 06-11-2012, 06:37 AM   #6
alekkas OP
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Joined: Dec 2010
Location: Far West Chicago Burbs
Oddometer: 703
Very cool, Surly. I was just about to address the path - glad to hear you use it.

Around here, the canal meets up with a feeder canal cut from the Rock River about 30 miles North.

The entire length of the canal has a walking / biking / horse back path. Originally, this path was built for draft animals to pull the boats. By the time it opened, all the boats could propel themselves and the path was NEVER used for that purpose. Today, it is used by many. Though not an avid cyclist, I’d consider a weekend riding / camping trip along the canal. However, I would NOT want to ride a horse through one of these tunnels! I imagine they dismount.

Show you what a geek I am, lock 22 has a functional lock AND a lift bridge. Oh the joy ….

This is the gearing that opened and closed the locks:

Here are the “downhill side” doors partially open:

And the “uphill side” using the spillover windows:

Around lock 24 I spotted the third and final pair of two women fishing. Tammy with her niece Megan just graduated from college. All I can say is that, if I ever return here, I will think teal.

At the town of Colona, the canal meets the Rock River, and, in turn, the Mississippi soon after.

They have done a great job of creating a park around the canal and a mile long road following it to the end.

Here is the final lock going into the Rock River. A group of 10 or so teens were just setting off on a tube float as I showed up.

By 1951, the canal was no longer in service. Ultimately, it was a commercial failure – but an engineering marvel. If constructed when planned in the 1830’s, it would have been extremely viable. Problem is, they built it from the old plans more than half a century later. Ahhh Illinois!

The ride home was pretty uneventful. Learned a lot of things on this ride. Besides the engineering of the canal, I actually saw my dysfunctional home state get something right. The entire canal, including the feeder canal, is a state park. Free to use the entire way and official camping in 9 of the lock areas. Although a work day, I saw nearly 50 people enjoying the canal and fishing, relaxing. All told I saw 20 of the 33 locks. Probably could have gotten to more with a few mile long hikes. The best way to see the entire length is to bike, hike, or horse ride the path.

I am with the conspiracy folks. This thing would never have been built were it not for the need of a Panama Canal lab because it made no sense at the turn of the century, 60 years after its inception. And that’s just fine. It is pretty rare here to have such great public use space.
Some ride reports:

Why do I keep thinking I'm gonna wind up in a love / hate relationship with a Guzzi?
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