French explorer/cartographer Louis Jolliet first suggested the construction of a canal connecting Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River (via the Illinois River) in 1673, but it wasn’t until 1836 that construction actually began. The canal, measuring 96 miles long by 60 feet wide by six feet deep, was completed in 1848, instantly allowing boat travel from Chicago to reach the navigable portion of the Illinois River at LaSalle-Peru in one day – a journey that took several days by wagon. Eventually, railways, which hauled even more cargo at a much quicker pace, replaced canal transport. By the 1870’s, even newly-introduced steam-powered boats could not keep up with railway commerce. By 1933, even hunting, fishing, and other pleasure crafting ceased on the I&M with the completion of the Illinois Waterway, which joined the now-channelized portions of the Des Plaines and Illinois Rivers with the Sanitary and Ship Channel. In 1984, the canal was successfully included as a component in the U.S. National Park Service’s National Heritage Corridor Program, which provides for not only funding but also planning, programming, and various amenities along the canal route. Today, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources manages the towpath of the I&M as a state trail, open to hikers and bikers for 60 miles of its length. Similarly, local towns and villages are refurbishing I&M-related buildings, locks, bridges, and other structures. Because it covers so much ground the canal path transects a diverse array of habitats offering a wide diversity of birds. Lock 16 Visitor Center and I&M Canal Boat Ride are located at the corner of First Street and Route 351 (Joliet Street) at the I&M Canal in Downtown LaSalle. Come enjoy a one-hour 1848 canal boat ride with guides from the era. Rides run daily Mon-Sat 10am to 3:30pm and Sun 11:15am-2:15pm. The Lock 16 Visitor Center with gift shop and cafe is open year round. Visitor Center hours are Mon, Wed, Thurs 7am-7pm; Tues 7am-8:30pm; Fri 7am-5pm; Sat & Sun 8am-5pm Special events are held every month. Please visit our website or call for more information or to make a reservation. Reservations are recommended.