Lock 23 of the historic Hennepin Canal was still frozen solid, despite two days of weather near 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and a day of rain showers. Snowmobile tracks were the only sign of people; not a single footprint in the snow other than ours, as we hiked on the extremely slippery towpath. We don't really ever see many people anywhere on the canal, even in summer, but on this day, we didn't run into anyone else. Formerly called the Illinois and Mississippi Canal, the Hennepin Canal connects the Mississippi River and the Illinois River, two major waterways serving Illinois. Prior to railroads and good roads, canals such as these were the main method of transporting goods from one part of the country to another. The 33 lock Hennepin Canal is constructed of concrete -the first U.S. canal built using this new the technology. Construction began in 1892, and the first boat made the complete 104 mile voyage in 1907. At the same time this canal was being constructed, the locks on the Illinois River were widened to accommodate larger boats, making the Hennepin Canal obsolete before it was ever completed. Today, the canal and towpath are used for fishing, boating, hiking, biking, and snowmobiling.
Posted by Tom Gill at Friday, February 21, 2014