Thursday, September 20, 2012

You've Never See a Waterway Quite Like Hennepin

   This is the Hennepin Canal, not far from Tampico, Illinois.  Why would you travel here?  Well, this is a working piece of history.  
The canal was originally conceived as a way to connect the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers in Northern Illinois in the late 1800's.  By 1892, the canal was underway.  By the time it was completed in 1907, it did indeed cut over 400 miles off the journey between the rivers to the Mississippi where goods could then head to the Gulf of Mexico, but it was too narrow for the modern boats of the time to use.  Therefore, the canal was obsolete before it was finished.  By the 1930's the canal was mainly used for recreational traffic.
The Hennepin Canal was one of the first to use cement containment walls and has Marshall Gates which are unique to that canal.  For the engineer, simply looking at the structure of the canal is worth the trip.  Much of the innovation that went into the canal pre-dates even the Panama Canal.
These days, the Hennepin is used for recreation.  It is supported by The Friends of the Hennepin Canal and they are constantly working to fully restore the workings of this magnificent old beast.
The sights along the way are some that you won't see anywhere else these days.  Most canals are all but lost.  They're nothing more than historical markers along the sides of country highways across the Midwest.
The Hennepin Canal is being preserved for all to enjoy.  There are hiking, biking, cross country skiing, and horseback riding trails along the way.  You are welcome to bring your canoe, kayak or boat along, as long as you follow the speed rules.  There are campgrounds along the way that are open from April 15th to October 31st every year.  There are some great towns along the way, like Tampico, where you can enjoy the local ambiance. 
   Tampico is where Ronald Reagan was born and they have a museum dedicated to that.   

Tampico is the kind of small Midwestern town where the sidewalks roll up at night and everyone knows everyone else.  It's the kind of place with small shops and restaurants that make you want to spend a lifetime there.
So, If you want to spend some time in good old fashioned Midwestern America and kick back and relax, the Hennepin Canal is 50 miles and 32 locks of pleasurable vacation for you.  There's no place else like it.  That's why I like to tell folks about it. 

Take a trip back in time in Illinois.  There's more there than Chicago.


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