Where is the Heritage Corridor?
The Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) encompasses the communities and counties along the historic 97-mile Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. The Heritage Corridor spans from the Chicago Portage Area just southwest of Chicago to LaSalle-Peru including the counties of Will, Grundy, LaSalle and Putnam. The region conveniently located along I-55 from Chicago to Joliet along I-80 west to LaSalle-Peru.

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Chicago Portage Area | Bolingbrook Area | Joliet Area
Morris Area | Starved Rock Area | Putnam County

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Scenic Boat Ride Down the I&M Canal

Changing Your View of History With a Boat, a Crew, and a Mule

My husband has always been a huge history buff. He is fascinated by civilizations, architecture, and economic development, and seems to get lost in the romance of the stories of those who settled and built our country. He is a true romantic at heart. My heart has always seen things more logically, sort of like a calculator.I&M Canal

Wed been married for seven years when he finally talked me in to planning our first historical adventure. He spun a story of a grand adventure down a hand-dug canal that was critical to launching the city of Chicago in to the great city it is today, allowing US goods to be shipped to the city for the first time.

More: Experience the power of nature at Starved Rock State Park

Past, Present, and Future Collide

If you're like I was in the beginning, and had never heard of the I&M Canal, you are missing a key part of American history. The Illinois & Michigan Canal is a waterway that made it possible for Native Americans, French explorers, and early pioneers to make the trek from Chicago to La Salle. The waterway, which was completely dug by hand, was completed in 1848, and connected the Illinois River with Lake Michigan, and eventually the Mississippi River.

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The canal runs 96 miles through several state parks with scenery ranging from rolling hills to bluffs to restored historical sites. There was a little something for everyone in this authentic vacation, with boutique shopping right around the corner from the abundant wildlife found on the banks of the canal.

I&M CanalI was prepared for a historical tour of the area, perhaps some great scenery, and a few days to relax and unwind. I had not anticipated, but was delighted to find myself transported back in time as we traveled the waterway on an exact replica of the boat used by 19th century pioneers. The crew was charmingly dressed in attire perfectly matching that of the 19th century, and the boat was pulled by an honest to goodness mule. With the slow pace, friendly crew, and beautiful scenery on the banks of the canal, I enjoyed stepping back in time to when life was a little simpler.

I felt immediately nostalgic and intrigued as I sat back and enjoyed the 1 hour boat ride. Mrs. Abraham Lincoln described the construction of the canal, and her difficult journey the first time she made the trek from La Salle to Chicago. I watched several small children become completely enthralled by the stories told by the crew members, and realized this was a great place for a future family vacation.

More: Scenic Illinois waterway offers four seasons of adventure

I've never been to a place where people take such pride in what they do. I was incredibly impressed with the friendliness of the staff, and the breathtaking scenery and nature along the banks of the canal. The crew knew everything there was to know about the canal, and pointed out important pieces of nature and the parks lining the banks as we enjoyed a little mosey down the canal.

I could see the satisfied look on my husbands face as he realized I was having a great time. I imagined women, not so different than myself, in 19th century attire milling about the area, enjoying the equivalent of meeting friends at Starbucks for coffee.

He looked at me and simply said, I told you that history is romantic.

The Excitement Lives On

Starved Rock WaterfallsStill reeling from my fascination with the history of the canal, I was unprepared for the beauty of the Starved Rock State Park nearby. In perfect blend of nature and civilization, we viewed breathtaking waterfalls moments before we dined at the authentic and creative Elements at Starved Rock. We enjoyed a hike through the park, and then immediately relaxed with a Swedish massage at Starved Rock Lodge, and a musical tribute by the Legacy Girls that evening. My mind, body, and soul felt completely relaxed and at ease with my current position in life. Truly the best of both worlds.

More: 5 ways to play at Starved Rock

A Hidden Treasure

After a few stops at the local attractions, we returned to the I&M Canal to take advantage of a truly unique area, practically hidden by the fast pace of our lives. Back home, I never took the time to just sit and marvel over the beauty of nature, and how difficult it must have been for our ancestors to forge a world through such a vast, untamed area.

How a Simple Vacation Changed My Mind about History

I usually have a hard time planning a family vacation. Its tough to get away from life and put all the worries and stressors on the back burner while I take a day or two off. After this authentic historical adventure, I was so grateful I did.

Ill never forget feeling the breeze on my face as I rode an authentic barge down a canal that was dug by the hands of 19th century Americans. Never did I imagine I could be entertained by listening to real people from the era describe their adventures in building and traveling the canal. In todays fast-paced, modern world, I couldnt imagine that a slow boat ride through nature could be as enthralling as it truly was.

There is something peaceful about traveling to a place where people genuinely enjoy what they do and believe in history and its effect on our future. This was a vacation that could be repeated over and over, and I would still learn something new every single time. I look forward to the day we can return and experience the peaceful, friendly nature of the people and the fascinating scenery of the area.

Find more attractions that are alive with history in Illinois, and request a visitors guide to plan your vacation to I&M Canal Heritage Corridor in Illinois.