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We’re working our way down the Illinois River which, fortunately, is unexpectedly scenic and undeveloped. The Illinois River is an old meandering twisty 273 mile river that connects (via the 336 mile preamble of the Illinois Waterway) Chicago to the Mississippi River at Grafton, Illinois (just a bit north of St Louis). In the early 1900’s, the river was second only to the Columbia River in fresh water fishing harvests; not so anymore, thanks to over-fishing and to pollution in general and specifically industry and sewage out of Chicago.
Despite being in ‘middle’ America, we’ve passed through some very international sounding locales: nights in Ottawa and Havana and a drive-by of Peru! Here’s a collection of a few pix of our river life as we make our way south. (Speaking of which, the geese and ducks in Georgian Bay, Canada were winging, honking and quacking southward over our heads when we were there in mid-August. Now we are starting to see them here again after minimal sightings along Lake Michigan.)
We left with a pack of six other Loopers from the Joliet wall and had one of our longest and latest days yet. And all that without the reward of big mileage: 10 hours and 10 minutes and only 44 miles. Three locks (each with increasing wait times of up to 3 and half hours) turned a short trip into a very long day .
The bottom line is the commercial barge traffic has priority over pleasure craft; but that is compounded by the barges’ snail’s pace to enter, exit and get tied on/off and the locks trying to beat each other’s safety records. By the time one clears out, another one is radioing in with its approach. No one seems to take note that a mile away for the barge at 1 mph could practically lock through a whole gaggle of pleasure craft!
Although I’m pretty sure Ziggy didn’t agree with the change in the routine!
Speaking of Ziggy:
A stop at Illinois Valley Yacht Club (IVY), just north of Peoria, for gas and the night after a relatively easy 74 miles over a 5 hour day on the water.
Refreshing, short leg stretch out to the marina entrance.
In anticipation of our long 205 mile run down the Mississippi between gas-ups, we bit the bullet, got up early again, skipped breakfast and did a SLOW day to see if we could eke out better mileage and make the run without asking fellow Loopers to loan us their dinghy gas along the way. Good news: we increased our mpg by 113% and can make it! Bad news: it is now confirmed–we hate going 7mph!! But we’ll do it for those 2 days (maybe with a few fast sections once we feel good about the river current, etc)
Just a sampling of at least a dozen channel markers washed WAY off the mark! (Remember the rule? “Red right return”– so when going DOWN a river (away from its head), then green is on the right…supposedly! Keeps us alert!
Aside from Peru Proof, here’s a shot of a rare road along the waterway and an even rarer small town. Basically it has been a tree-lined waterway!
Yes, we made it all the way to Havana (by way of Ottawa and Peru!!)
We were Lock Lucky on our final 120 mile approach to Grafton. Only one lock to get through and it was straight in and out due to the low river–barges grounded and lined up on the shore waiting for “water” and/or dredging in some bad spots. All their bad luck resulted in no traffic and minimal clearance for everyone except small pleasure craft (like us!) We zoomed through our 120 miles (and whipped past a bunch of Loopers who had left us in the spray yesterday when we were doing our slow-mph-test)…much to N’s joy today!
We now sit at Grafton Marina where the Illinois meets the Mississippi River! That’s Mile Marker 0 on the Illinois and Mile Marker 981 on the Mississippi. Just one more small (relatively) leg and we’ll complete our loop and cross our wake. Yikes………weird feelings looming! Time for Taco Tuesday!