Stories from the Great Loop
Illinois, Mississippi & Ohio Rivers
A mile plus down the Chicago River, then four miles on the South Branch Chicago River to the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal. 32 miles of canal to the Des Plaines River near Joliet. 17 miles down the Des Plaines to its confluence with the Kankakee River, the official start of the Illinois River. 54 total river/canal miles from Lake Michigan: 58 road bridges, 13 RR bridges, 3 suspended pipelines, 2 locks and 1 electronic fish barrier to keep the Asian Carp out of Lake Michigan.
Cruising through downtown Chicago is special and I’m grateful for the Sanitary Canal because without it you couldn’t loop the Loop. But it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is the armpit of the Great Loop. The northern part of the New Jersey ICW is a close second.
Five more locks as the Illinois slowly becomes a typical winding Midwest river making its way 273 miles to the Mississippi. Two locks and 218 miles down the Mississippi. One lock and 48 miles up the Ohio River to the Tennessee River (or 58 to the Cumberland – either gets you to Kentucky Lake).
The inland rivers of mid America are where L.T. is most at home and gives nothing away to bigger Looper trawlers, well, except for living space. She can slip into tight or shallow anchorages, under low bridges and even tie up to islands a la Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. She is nimble in locks, can easily hide from big barge rigs and is fast and efficient enough to overcome the strongest river current without guzzling fuel.
ALL boats are compromises. Try to be as comfortable as possible with the compromises you’ll have to make if you need to buy a boat.