Along the Illinois Waterway–Escape from Ottawa

The Illinois Waterway starts at the end of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and meanders its way to Grafton, Illinois, where it meets the Mississippi River.

The busy part of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Downtown Chicago. We fit under all the bridges except one.

Train lift bridge on the Sanitary Canal. We couldn’t fit under this one.


Mile 303.4. The beginning. Heading south, or downbound, the miles will count down to zero.

We travelled the whole 303.4 miles.

The electric fish barrier. Designed to keep invasive species of fish from getting into Lake Michigan. There is a big problem with Asian Carp.

We stopped in Joliet to take advantage of the free wall. Nearby and across the river is a huge casino called Harrah’s, but since we’re not gamblers, and the town had nothing else to offer, we decided to leave in the morning.
We met Captain Lee, who was also tied to the wall. The dude is lucky enough to have a job delivering all kinds of boats. He gave us a lot of useful information about the waterway and the locks.
“When docking, always point your bow into the current,” he advised. “That way the debris that floats downstream won’t collect under your swim platform.”
I wish I knew that before. We had to clear pounds of salad and sticks from our props before we left.

Pointed the wrong way at the Joliet free wall. There was electricity, but no water.

We spent a rainy couple of nights at Spring Brook Marina. They had a courtesy van which we used to “provision up”.

They also had a very nice restaurant right at the marina.

When we arrived in Ottawa, Illinois, there were no boats on the free wall. Yay!

Ottawa free wall with electric, no water.

Ottawa morning.

The next day a family of 5 and their dog pulled in behind us.

Catamaran Love and Luck behind Ginger Lee at Ottawa Landing.

Ottawa, Illinois has everything a boater could need, and it’s just a few blocks away from the dock. We did laundry, found the good sandwich pub, the liquor store called “The Package Store,” and the supermarket. When our toilet clogged, I found the hardware store and bought a 20 foot plumbers snake to unclog the pipe. Lots of stuff going on in bustling Ottawa. We planned to stay longer, but the dock was situated at the intersection of the Fox and Illinois Rivers, so after a night of soaking rain, the water level rose nearly 4 feet! Logs, trash, and even whole trees were rushing down the Fox and careening off our hull and running gear. The banging and scraping reverberated terribly inside our cabin. It soon became obvious that the whole dock would be underwater before noon. We gotta go! Our neighbors in Love and Luck hurriedly untied and left. We did too. SOCOBO 10/27/17

Love and Luck at low water. By the time we left, that dock was almost underwater.

One thought on “Along the Illinois Waterway–Escape from Ottawa

  1. When I was growing up To 55 Summer Street Kingston the building next door was called the (PACKAGE STORE). I hadn’t heard that nomenclature in years

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