If you want to take a very long walk or a decent day-long bike ride, The Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail that passes directly through Ottawa is the best place to start. It’s 61.5 miles routed through state parks, quaint Illinois towns and the beautiful countryside, home to corn tassels waving in the breeze. Adding to the beauty of this trail are the Illinois and Des Plaines rivers, giving trail travelers plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenery.
The I&M Canal was completed in 1848 to connect Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River via the Illinois River. It was immediately put to use for trade transportation, and the tow paths were created by mules and oxen pulling barges through. In 1933 the Illinois Waterway was completed, and the canal closed for traffic. Now the towpaths are beautiful bike trails, with many historical signs posted along the way providing the story of the canal. During winter, if there are four or more inches of snow on the ground, you can also take snowmobiles on the trail along the canal.
Ottawa is a great starting spot for your journey along the I&M Canal Trail. To the west you have three state parks that can keep you busy for many long weekends of exploration. They are Matthiessen, Starved Rock and Buffalo Rock.
No matter the time of year, you can bring your snowshoes, cross country skis, snowmobiles, hiking boots or bicycles for an extended weekend at your second home in Heritage Harbor Ottawa. You’ll enjoy the colorful scenery Illinois has to offer in one of the prettiest areas of the state. Because of the trail conditions, horses are not permitted on the I&M Canal Trail.
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