What do I say about Chicago and it’s skyline, it is impressive. Being from a town only about 150 miles away I’ve been to the city. But never approached and stayed on the water.
We stayed a Du Sable Harbor, close to the Chicago River and Navy Pier. In the early 60’s I visited my Brother and Sister-in-law while they lived in the area. My brother was stationed at the Navy Reserve Center on Navy Pier. It doesn’t look the same. For one thing the Navy didn’t have a Ferris Wheel. Navy Pier has been made into a destination for locals and visitors, with shops and even an I-Max theater.
When I visited I don’t even remember the river and the lock. I do remember the Science and Industry Museum, Shedd Aquarium and the Natural History Museum. All are located within walking distance from Du Sable Harbor.
We had planned to stay a couple of days at the Du Sable Harbor, but when we realized that the first lock we would encounter would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday for repairs, we cut our stay short to make plans to move on Monday.
To prepare for our trip downriver we started with some recon. All three of us took a walk along the river walk to the first low bridge at Michigan Avenue. We spoke with excursion boat captains, and other Loopers that were heading either down the Chicago River or heading to the Calumet Canal. Many thought we would be too tall. Cynthia and I discussed it and the decision to proceed. If we were too tall we would turn around and head down to the Cal/Sag only about 15 miles south. I spent the rest of the night removing the radar dome from the arch and lowering our overall height another foot. I told myself we would be fine.
We left the dock about 8:00AM and made our way to our first lock in the Bright Angel. For a first time it went pretty well, just a little rocky from wave action in the Chicago Harbor. Upon exiting the lock we saw the Chicago canyon. Cynthia took her place on the roof of the back deck leaning on the dingy as a spotter for our height, and we moved forward at a very slow pace.
Here is what we saw:
Once passed the downtown, the landscape turned to heavy industrial and we began to meet the first of the barge traffic. We spoke with the barge captain via radio and he informed us that the Fish Barrier would be closed until 4:00PM but there was a wall, sort of, to tie off. With help from others waiting for the barrier to open we tied and were able to take Toots for a walk. After only about an hour wait we were advised by the Coast Guard that it would open for a short time to let a tow through and we could proceed after they cleared. We were back on the river. Going through was no different from just heading down river at no wake speed.
The next lock was in Lockport Illinois, where we learned from the lock master how he wanted us to enter and where to tie off for the downward ride. In this first lock we rafted off another boat, that made it easy for us, the inside boat tied to a floating bollard kept us both against the wall. We made it through without a hitch and the Lock Master gave us info on the further locks and some good advice.
Joliet was our first destination and we got into the town’s free dock about 6:00PM. There were already a couple of boats tied up so docking was easy and a free night with power was had. Soon we noticed other boaters gathering to exchange stories and experiences on the first day of travel on the Chicago River.
Up next, in the cruising edition we will highlight our travel through Illinois toward the Mississippi River.
Until next time, it’s quite an adventure.