Leaving Chicago


Leaving Chicago on this beautiful sunny morning we are navigating on the South Branch Chicago River,  we have just passed under 50 bridges.  What a sight to see early in the morning with all the tall buildings and watching the people scurry to work.  We are lucky that our boat is under 17 ft. so we were able to enjoy the beauty of down town Chicago.


This is the Canal Street Railroad Bridge (or Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge) the only vertical lift bridge across the Chicago River.  It was constructed in 1914 for the Pennsylvania Railroad to replace a two-track swing bridge, with its 1500 main span the heaviest of any vertical lift bridge in the United States.  By 1916 each day the bridge was crossed by about 300 trains, and was raised for river traffic about 75 times.  This was the only bridge with a 10 ft. clearance that we could not navigate under, so we called the bridge operator by VHF radio and requested it to be raised.


South Branch Chicago River is a very industrial area with barge storage, cleaning, repairs, and receipt of shipments.  With the river being so narrow Kent had to really watch for barge traffic, especially around the corners.  He was very glad we had AIS which indicated if a barge was approaching, the name of the barge, and length.  The smell was very unpleasant in this area due to industry.  It was still nice to be back on the river system again were you can walk around your boat without getting tossed about.


We are now on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and past the barge terminals and industry.  The canal is narrow and reminds me of the Erie Canal and the smell is so much better.


This is the Lemont Highway fixed span Bridge 47.4 ft of clearance.


This is the  junction of the Calumet Sag Channel and Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.  Johnny and Liz (Anchor Down) took this route due to height restrictions of 17′.


We are now navigating into an area where a permanent electrical barrier is under the water.  This was designed to prevent and slow the spread of invasive fish species through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal into Lake Michigan.  The electrical barrier is  operational 24 hrs. a day.  However they were doing maintenance on the electrical barrier and navigating through this area was prohibited during working hours except for and hr. during their lunch break.


We are now heading for the Lockport Lock and Dam 40ft. our second lock going down the Canal with Floating bollards.  There was plenty of space to tie up on the wall before the lock while we waited for our turn to be lock down, along with several other boaters.

Now the Illinois locks are not boaters friendly like the Mississippi locks, so after waiting 3-1/2  hrs. and moving twice Kent was done, so we crossed the canal to our port side and tied up to the wall behind Bill and Barbra( High Spirits) for the night.  We saw a sign that said no overnight dockage but we tied up in front of the sign so nobody could see it.  Kent found an electric receptacle so we plugged into it and were able to run our battery charger and fridge.  After we were tied up Lars & Erja (loopers from Sweden) tied up behind us.  Bruce and Barbara (High Spirits loppers for 12years) invited us all over for docktails on the front of their boat.  It was a nice evening and glad we were tied for the night.  The fellow loopers that finally got into the lock still had to wait for lock repairs for another couple hrs.

The night was warm so I asked Kent to plug the 12volt fan in for me.  He had to retrieve the longer 12volt extension cord from the upstairs helm.  I looked out the front state-room and saw him sitting on the steps muttering ” nobody takes care of my cord” as he is trying to untangle the knots.  I asked him what he was talking about and he said” there must be 250 knots in this cord”  I started laughing and told him I didn’t think so and he said ” Don’t talk to me”  so I just laid in bed and laughed at that comment.  Since then we have laughed over that knotted cord several times.

Here is some historical information  – We have now reached the end of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.  This 20 mile long canal was constructed to connect the Chicago River with the Des Plains River and was completed in 1900.  The Lockport Lock was a key feature of this canal.  This was the first step in producing a navigable waterway from Chicago to the Mississippi.  It took 39 more years before the rest of the Illinois river was tamed with locks to provide a reliable waterway with 9′ depth from Lockport to the Mississippi River.

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