Sept 16-19; Days 266-269 The Last of the Illinois River


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.

2017-9-19 river edge trees Fall
Fall Colors -A reminder that it’s around the corner.

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 .

2017-9-19 ottawa marina pool
Here we are the morning AFTER pulling in after sundown in Heritage Harbor in Ottawa (Illinois) .   Needing a break and a dip in the pool (and a rest before the next leg), we stayed here for two nights

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!

2017-9-19 ottawa lock trail
Two days provided plenty of time for B and Ziggy to get there “walk on” on what was originally the horse and mule tow path for the Illinois and Michigan Canal (built in 1849!!) Now it’s a great 90 mile walk/mountain bike trail. Bonus points: an entrance to the trail system is right across from the marina!
2017-9-19 abandoned lock ditch
Glimpses of remnants of the old canal which was replaced in 1900 pop out randomly along the abutting trail.  
2017-9-19 sunrise
A few dawn starts to try and get an edge on the barges and the long waits we experienced at the prior locks had us modifying our usual leisurely morning walks, eggs, veggies and coffee routine.  The trade-off was definitely worth it.

Although I’m pretty sure Ziggy didn’t agree with the change in the routine!

2017-9-19 cold dog
Fall is in the air for this cold dog!

Speaking of Ziggy:

2017-9-19 WTF wondering why the dam(n) delay
What-the-Ruff?!!??”  Z checking out the dam(n) delay
2017-9-19 N patient waiting
N’s version of patiently waiting (part of famous Starved Rock Park in background) Yes! He looks relaxed and flowing —right?  Had to get a picture of THAT!



IMG_21162017-9-19 graffiti
While Z and N patiently wait, B practices her penmanship!  The lockmaster allowed us to tie up to this metal circle thing with D rings…. despite asking 3 times we could not figure out what he called it.  I’d like to chalk it up to scratchy radio reception…but to be honest, he had a southern Appalachian drawl that was  “unique!”   I’m sure we must have a reader that will know what these things are actually called?!?


2017-9-19 ill river scene feature poss
The waiting pays off with some nice scenery and morning light.


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.

2017-9-19 always sophmoricly amused Pee
Apologies to the mature audience, but simply always sophomorically amused!  

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)

2017-9-19 IVY sunrise Loopers depart.jpg
Every boat you can see (minus under the covered roof) are Loopers…..all departing IVY at dawn.
2017-9-19 peoria industry
WAIT!!!!  Over there on the left in Peoria, it’s those Nina and Pinta replicas again…..ok, ok there must be duplicate (or triplicate?)  replicas unless they can drop their masts low enough to get under the Chicago bridges??….and change locales as quickly as we do??    
2017-9-19 peoria pollution
And this (along with the thought of Chicago’s sewage) is why we aren’t jumping in to cool off!
2017-9-19 boats in distance at slow speed
We made it through the lock after idling in circles for an hour  as we basically boat-danced and chatted with the other Loopers who, once out of the gate, quickly left us in the dust (or should I say in their spray….well at 8.5 mph, they didn’t go THAT fast…but they did leave us in their wake).  Very hard on N to see them off  in the distance (see the white specks??) as we proceeded on our 7 mph experiment.

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!

2017-9-19 peru illinoiAside 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!!)

2019-9-19 havana waterfront park
Illinois’ version of the Malecon–waterfront park in Havana
2017-9-19 duck store window
Racks and racks of ducks in this downtown Havana store. Reminded us of Chesapeake Bay museums.  Other stores had stuffed albino beavers, life-sized ceramic does inside glass encased coffee tables and other fine finds too.
2019-9-19 havana bank
No palm trees in THIS Havana…but they nearly have the Banco Nacional de Havana:
2017-9-19 havana fog
 Morning fog after nighttime torrential rain, wind and lightening for 2 hours
2017-9-19 pano muddy water
The Illinois River is getting muddier as we go — wonder how the Mississippi will be!
2017-9-19 fast past power plant thing
Back to going fast–nice to be able to zoom by this creepy thing!

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!

2017-9-19 house on stilts
Back to houses on stilts!
2017-9-19 confluence Illinois and mississippi
Confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers straight ahead.

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!



3 thoughts on “Sept 16-19; Days 266-269 The Last of the Illinois River”

  1. Love it!!! What a great treat to come upstairs and be feasted by Barb’s pithy commentary and amazing pictures! I would love to write (or have written by Barb, even better!) a short story from Ziggy’s perspective on this boat trip! The picture of Ziggy in her blankets is so full of emotions it hardly needs a story. But the picture of her hanging out over the rails speaks volumes.
    Barb, I think I wrote this once before, but why are you inscribing graffiti on the locks. I am just curious!!!
    Does everyone do this, or are you just being the very rebellious teenager? Just asking????
    I love the pictures!!!! I love the slow moving, tortoise approach to the journey. Or at least the lock and gas challenges!
    I love you and hope to see you in Tacoma sometime in late October….Take care and smell the roses! L, J


  2. Wowzerz. Reliving this stretch with you. It was in Heritage Harbor that I got so sick and needed transportation to a hospital. The drunkard local boaters declined to drive us. No taxis. No rentals. One lovely ex-Looper drove me 30 miles inland. It was July and miserably hot too. We sure did love that pool though.


  3. Hello, I was wondering if you went through the 205 miles without gaz yet. Awaiting anxiously your report as I have only 160 gallons.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: