We are parked for a month in the Geneseo Campground a few miles north of the small city of Geneseo IL. The RV park is located on the north bank of the Hennepin Canal, completed in 1907 for barge traffic between the Illinois River and the Mississippi River near Rock Island. It was built by and operated by the Corps of Engineers. Its operation was cut back to 2 days per week in 1948 and finally closed by the COE in 1951. From its opening, parts had been used for recreation.The State of Illinois bought it in 1970 for use as a state park. The doors of many of the locks have been removed, but a few remain.
Water to feed the canal, originally named the Illinois and Mississippi Canal for the names of the rivers it connected, comes from a 29 mile long feeder canal which comes from the Sinnissippi Lake at Sterling IL built for that purpose, diverting water from the Rock River. The feeder canal empties into the Hennepin Canal at its highest elevation so the feeder water flows both toward the Illinois River (a drop of 196 ft.) and the Mississippi River (a drop of about 40 ft.) . There were a total of 33 locks on the canal, a few as little as a half mille apart on the east side. Note the similarity to the Panama Canal built later – its highest point is in the middle. Some of the construction techniques and materials used in building this canal were copied in building the Panama Canal.
Although the canal reduced the barge distance from Chicago to Rock Island from 607 miles to 188 miles, it was not a commercial success. In its best year 30,000 tons were carried over it - 1/600th of its maximum planned capacity.
A narrow gauge railroad bed used for construction of the canal has become a 62 mile paved path beside the canal for hikers, bicyclists, fishermen, snowmobilers, skiers and equestrians. Boats with up to 10 hp are allowed on the canal, but with the few remaining unmanned locks and uncontrolled aquatic growth, kayaks and canoes are more practical. Above is one of the remaining locks, not in service. The quantity of water coming through proves that there is a sluggish flow of water down the canal, sometimes not readily apparent. This lock, no. 24, is about a mile upstream from our RV park, so it makes a nice walk to get there from our RV.
Lock chambers were 35 by 135 ft.The doors on the downstream side of this lock are permanently opened. A county highway is close to this lock and a small park is next to it for parking for folks using the canal for recreation. Below shows some of the mechanism to open and close the lower doors.
A mile walk down the canal from our RV park takes one to the place where the Hennepin Canal passes over Geneseo Creek, a tributary of the Green River on an aqueduct. The Green River meandered across the route for the canal, so part of the Green was rerouted in a manmade river bed. In a few places the canal adopted the old bed of the Green River.
Below is the aqueduct for the canal to pass over the tributary. There were a total of 9 aqueducts to pass over waterways. Seven remain.
I took this shot standing on the path beside the aqueduct looking across the canal down into the brownish water in Geneseo Creek.
This is the downstream side of the creek going under the aqueduct.
In the part of the canal along which I have walked are a few homes with docks on the canal.
Here is one of the very large cottonwoods growing along the canal path. The diameter of the trunk of this one is about 5 feet!
OLD VW CAMPER
We parked for a week at Sunrise RV park not far from Geneseo. In walking through the park, I spied this unit. We had a 1966 VW Westphalia camper, like this one, from 1966 until 1972 when it no longer could accommodate our growing children. We had the attaching tent for ours, too. This one had an accessory air conditioning unit to be put in place when setting up camp. We wished we had one a few times!
Ours did not have the accessory roof top carriers, but it did have the kind of rising top shown here. I talked to the owner about his VW. He told me that the engine was modified to put out twice the horsepower of mine and the gear ratios were modified accordingly.
One does not often see a 50 year old RV still in service!