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Historic I&M Canal and Trail

Opened in 1848 and dug by hand, the Illinois and Michigan Canal originally stretched 96 miles from Chicago to the Illinois River at LaSalle, linking the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.  The adjacent trail was traversed by mules, which pulled barges along the still-visible Canal.  Prior to the construction of railways, the Canal connected Ottawa to Chicago, making it a prominent Illinois commercial hub during the mid-nineteenth century.  Learn more about the Canal here.  
    
Much of the original Canal and path have now been restored as a 63-mile "linear park" between Lockport and LaSalle, owned and maintained by the Illinois DNR.  The trail is relatively flat and uncrowded, with a crushed limestone surface, making for a great recreational amenity.  Rent an electric bike and explore!  
 
The trail is accessible across the street from Quest's facility, and is an ideal east-west biking route to many destinations of interest.  A few of these are:


 
Distance
from Quest
Destination
1.5 miles (east) Heritage Harbor Ottawa.  World class resort, featuring the Red Dog Grill overlooking the marina. 
5.5 miles (east) Downtown Marseilles. Quaint river town with multiple casual restaurants. 
6.1 miles (east) Illini State Park. Scenic park along the Illinois River. Ride south at Marseilles on the pedestrian/bike section of Route 178 bridge.
0.7 miles (west) Historic Canal footbridge (old stone bases only, not crossable). Popular site among locals for special-occasion photos. 
0.8 miles (west) Historic Fox River aqueduct. Structure that originally carried Canal barges OVER the Fox River. Pedestrians and riders on the trail now use a wooden footbridge that was built over the original steel structure, which today is visible from above.
1.3-1.8 miles (west) Rewatered section of the Canal. This recently-completed City of Ottawa project refilled a half-mile section of the historic Canal with water, and now serves as a scenic amenity for kayaking, canoeing & ice-skating.  The Canal and path cross twice under Route 23-71 along the northern edge of downtown Ottawa. 
1.4 miles (west) Jeremiah Joe Coffee (Canal location).  Coffee & snack spot located on Canal path. Exit path at Paul St. and travel a short block west on Canal Ave. Also located downtown on LaSalle St.  
1.5 miles (west) Historic Canal tollhouse and replica barge. Believed to have been built in 1849, the tollhouse was once one of four located along the Canal. It is the only original structure that remains, and can be toured by appointment. The "Railsplitter" is parked on the Canal bank near the tollhouse; this replica of the many wooden barges that once traveled the Canal was originally built as a movie prop. 
1.75 miles (west) Downtown Ottawa. This Historic Illinois river town features a fine selection of casual to upscale restaurants and bars, antique and gift shops, festivals, seasonal outdoor entertainment, Washington Park (site of the very first Lincoln-Douglas debate), the historic Reddick Mansion, a riverwalk located where the Fox River meets the Illinois River, and many other interesting diversions. We recommend riding south from the path on Paul St., then west on Lafayette St. or Jackson St. into downtown in order to avoid busy traffic on Route 23-71 (Columbus St. and LaSalle St.).  
1.75 miles (west) Ottawa Visitors Center. Stop in to learn more about what to see and do in Ottawa (south of path on corner of Washington & LaSalle Streets).
1.7 miles (west) Cheese Shop & Deli. Selection of sandwiches, lunches & deserts, located on the Canal path.
3.25 & 4.75 miles (west) Historic Canal locks #11 & #12. Original cement basin structures that allowed for the periodic elevation changes along the Canal. Barges waited here to be raised (going upriver) or lowered (going downriver) in order to adjust to the changing elevations of the Illinois River valley.   
5.8 miles (west) Buffalo Rock State Park. Scenic park featuring a bluff overlook of the Illinois River and a small herd of buffalo. Entrance is across the street from the Canal path trailhead.