The Illinois & Michigan Canal provided the final link in the water route from the east coast to the Gulf of Mexico by connecting Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River via the Illinois River. Today, the Illinois & Michigan (I&M) Canal State Trail has preserved nearly 70 miles along the towpath of the original 96-mile canal as a multi-use trail.
The longest complete section of trail begins in the west at the Illinois River in LaSalle. The 61.5-mile route, managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, stretches east to Rockdale, just south of Joliet. Trail users will find a number of state parks along the canal, including Channahon State Park (Channahon); Aux Sable access area (8 miles from Channahon); William G. Stratton State Park (Morris); Gebhard Woods State Park (Morris); and Buffalo Rock State Park (west of Ottawa). Most of the parks offer public boat access, and some feature original canal locks and restored locktender’s houses.
Just west of Rockdale, the trail links directly to the Rock Run Greenway Trail. Farther east, a short trip north on S. Larkin Avenue/State Route 7 leads trail users to the Joliet Junction Trail. Both paved trails head north into Joliet.
A much shorter section of the I&M Trail—managed by the Forest Preserve District of Will County—extends north from the Joliet Iron Works Historic Site on the north side of Joliet, through Lockport, to the Isle a la Cache Forest Preserve in Romeoville. There, trail users can connect directly to the Centennial Trail, which follows the route of the historic canal north to Cook County and the John Husar I&M Canal Trail.
East of Romeoville, a short section of the trail runs along the canal through Lemont, a southwestern suburb of Chicago. This charming village, settled in 1836, offers all the historic charm of an old canal town. Downtown lies just off the crushed-stone pathway, so trail-goers can easily access restaurants and other amenities in the community. The trail also connects to the Heritage Quarries Recreation Area, which has a series of freshwater lakes that can be enjoyed with fishing, boating, canoeing, and kayaking.
Parking is available at the state parks along the trail’s route. To access the northern section of trail, park at the Joliet Iron Works Historic Site on Columbia Street in Joliet. Alternatively, parking is available at the Isle a la Cache Forest Preserve on E. Romeo Road in Romeoville and in a small lot just to the east where the I&M Trail meets the Centennial Trail. Farther east, parking is available in the Heritage Quarries Recreation Area of Lemont.