Winter brings with it the opportunity for amazing outdoor adventures for people who are brave enough to get outside and get active. One of the hottest winter activities is snowmobiling, which offers you the opportunity to see incredible sights while getting an adrenaline high riding a snowmobile. Hopefully mother nature will cooperate soon so winter can be enjoyed to the fullest!
Ottawa, IL Snowmobiling
Under 90 minutes outside of Chicago, the Illinois and Michigan Canal offers snowmobiling trails that crisscross four Northern Illinois State Parks. The Canal passes through parts of the Channahon State Park, William G. Stratton State Park, Gebhard Wood State Park and Buffalo Rock State Park, delivering over 61 miles of white powder. As long as there are four or more inches of snow, the Canal trails are available for use by snowmobiles 24 hour a day.
The scenic town of Ottawa offers easy on/off highway access to Buffalo Rock, at which point drivers can connect to other parts of the trail. Along the way, riders will parallel the twists and turns of the Illinois River. The bare trees allow for scenic river views and potentially the chance to spot wildlife. The canal trail passes historic 1800’s stone aqueducts, the Seneca Grain Elevator, and multiple canal locks.
One of the more unusual attractions on the Illinois and Michigan Canal trail, the Effigy Tumuli, lies near Buffalo Rock State Park. Created in 1983 by artist Michael Heizer, the environmental sculptures evoke Native American burial mounds.
Snowmobile Safety Tips
If you’re new to snowmobiling, packing for the winter excursion can feel intimidating. When you’re out on the trails, you’ll have occasional access to restrooms and land-line telephones in state park rest areas. Other than that, you’ll need to carry in what you need – and carry it out as well.
For small excursions, plan to bring lunch, water, binoculars, goggles, a camera, and extra winter gear. It’s always a smart idea to carry an emergency first aid kit and emergency tool kit, in case something breaks on your snowmobile. Flashlights or head lamps are always a good “just in case” idea, as are flares, a GPS, a whistle, and an emergency radio.
Snowmobiling is a fun and safe winter sport, but there is risk associated with it. To protect your family, do not allow children to ride on a snowmobile if they are under the age of 6. While driving a snowmobile looks cool, youth under age 16 should not be allowed to do it. It takes skill and strength to maneuver a snowmobile, especially if conditions turn icy. Ice makes it difficult to steer and can pose a danger, even for experienced drivers.
When getting out of the greater Chicago area for winter recreation, it’s always important to plan for traffic. If your family spends a lot of time cross country skiing or snowmobiling in the winter, or boating in the summer, it can be helpful to purchase a second home in the scenic countryside. Ottawa may be famous as the home of Starved Rock, but this town has a lot to offer year round in terms of recreation, community, and quality of life. Heritage Harbor Ottawa offers riverside accommodation close to Chicago. An hour from Chicago and minutes from Starved Rock, Heritage Harbor offers vacation rental cottages, vacation homes, a marina, and a restaurant. It is the perfect base camp for a snowmobiling vacation or second home.
With such rich year round amenities and points of interest, Ottawa makes the ideal base for winter and summer family fun. Visit now to explore the area, find your favorite trails, and be inspired.