The Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail follows the course of the Illinois River, and nearby Illinois and Michigan Canal from La Salle to Lemont. Open to bicyclists and dog-friendly, the trail passes through scenic countryside and historic areas such as the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas presidential debates in the town of Ottawa. Several state parks lie along its path, featuring convenient places to stop for restrooms, water and a picnic. Primitive camping is permitted, as well. With little elevation change, this trail is easy and tranquil, passing into and out of canopied forests.
Some of the attractions that you'll find include the massive Fox River Aqueduct in Ottawa, built to accommodate a change in the terrain. A set of large earth sculptures named the Effigy Tumuli looms near Buffalo Rock State Park. Built using heavy construction equipment and featuring effigies of a water strider, frog, catfish, turtle and snake, this giant art installation is a furbulous sight. The park also houses 2 live bisons, and sits on a bluff overlooking the Illinois River.
Birds and other wildlife abound on the I & M Canal Trail as well: water-loving herons, mallards and kingfishers, along with songbirds that serenade you on your trek. Home to many turtles, you'll spy them sunning themselves on rocks and fallen tree trunks. Water animals like muskrats and beavers are present, as are deer, snakes, rabbits and even a bald eagle or two. This is a sensory smorgasbord for Fido! Occasional boats and barges may pass by as well.
Primarily crushed stone, the surface can also be dirt, grass, asphalt and gravel. It can be muddy in spots until it dries out after spring rains end, so be prepared with waterproof shoes. The trail is open year-round and is pawrfect for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing with your fur-pup in tow!
Whether you backpack the full length of the trail, or return to do smaller sections one at a time, its historic and natural sights will offer something for everyone!
Parts of the trail follow roads - use caution. In the spring, sections can be flooded and muddy. You may encounter bicyclists on this trail. Stay to the right and allow them to pass safely. Keep your pooch firmly leashed.