Subject: Another trip by water
Hello Ziners.

Tom's post regarding his trip on the ICW made me realize there might be some interest in the trip my husband and I just took bringing our boat from Chicago to the Kentucky Lakes where we are leaving it for the winter.

The cruise begins in Lake Michigan, and proceeds down the Chicago River (or, if your boat is too tall, the Calumet River) to the Chicago Shipping and Sanitary Canal, into the Illinois River, the Mississippi River, the Ohio River and either the Tennessee River or the Cumberland River. Overall it is about 630 miles by water. Our boat travels most efficiently at about 22 mph and it took us about five days of running sunup to sundown to reach our destination. The mathmeticians out there are thinking we should have been able to travel over a thousand miles in that time, right?

Well, unlike the ICW which is primarily used by pleasure craft, the major rivers of this great land are primarily used by commercial traffic. On our first trip I was amazed at the amount of goods transported by barge. I continue to be amazed when I see one of those pushers with gigantic diesel engines pushing barges lashed together four across and six deep. One captain we heard talking to a lockmaster described his load as 54 by 300, and that was an average size. So that means every time a pleasure craft (us) approaches a barge it must slow to a speed that will not cause water from the wake to wash over the deck of the pusher or disturb the load.

The second reason is the river levels are managed by a system of locks and dams. Sometimes we arrived at locks and were able to go right in, but even the locking through takes at least 20 minutes as the lock is filled or emptied. The time mostly depends upon how different the water levels are on either side. One lock we went through was only a 10 foot drop. Another was a 57 foot lift.

Of course, if the pleasure craft arrives at the lock when barges are waiting to go through, it could be hours before the pleasure craft can go. The longest wait we had this trip was a little over two hours. We waited for one of the really long ones to push the front part into the lock, disconnect, back the back half out, have the front part brought to the other side and winched out, the lock brought back to the second half, the second half go in and be brought to the other side, reconnected to the front part and push out, and then bring the lock back to us! It is fascinating to watch.

We had absolutely fantastic weather, and the trees had already begun to change. Along some stretches of the Illinois and Upper Mississippi, there are miles and miles of nothing but river, trees and birds. Looking at cuts in the rocks and land from the rivers, one can see the power of the water over the centuries. We could also see the effect of far too little rain and snow in the central part of the country over the past few years. The Mississippi in particular is very low.

Along the way, we pulled into two marinas, docked at a restaurant dock and dropped our anchor two nights. I cannot give hotel recommendations since we stay aboard, but anyone interested in marina reviews or places to anchor can contact me! The restaurant dock was the Illinois Riverfront Restaurant in Hardin, Illinois. The food there is great, so if you are ever going through Hardin, stop in. The owner of the restaurant has about 200 feet of dock on the Illinois River, and he allows boaters who are eating at the restaurant to tie up overnight for just $25.

We were sad to leave the boat, but are looking forward to bringing it north in May!

Lisa in Chicago