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Illinois & Michigan (I&M) Canal

This canal pro­vided the first com­plete water route from the east coast to the Gulf of Mexico by con­nect­ing Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River by way of the Illinois River. It begins at the south branch of the Chicago River at Bridgeport and extends 96 miles to the Illinois river at LaSalle. It was orig­i­nally 60 feet wide and 6 feet deep. 15 locks were built along the canal to accom­mo­date dif­fer­ences in elevation.The canal was closed to nav­i­ga­tion in 1933. It has since been rede­vel­oped for recre­ation with numer­ous state parks and his­tor­i­cal sites along its banks.Visitors can fol­low the I&M Canal State Trail begin­ning at Rockdale along the old tow­path to LaSalle and expe­ri­ence 61.5 miles of scenic views of the canal and the Des Plaines and Illinois rivers.