Explore the western terminus of the I&M Canal in LaSalle and enjoy a leisurely mule-pulled boat ride on its tranquil waters. End your journey in Lockport & Joliet with a walk or ride along the towpath canal trail.
Start your tour in downtown LaSalle
Established by the Canal Commissioners as the canal’s western terminus, LaSalle was an economic crossroads where I&M Canal boats met Illinois River steamers. Today, downtown LaSalle offers dining, theatre and shopping as well as the full-size replica canal boat, “The Volunteer.”
I&M CANAL VISITOR CENTER AND LOCK 16 CAFÉ AND GIFT SHOP
Housed in a restored vintage building that was once home to a horse buggy maker, the I&M Canal Visitor Center and Lock 16 Café and Gift Shop offers information and interpretive exhibits, tasty food and refreshing drinks. Linger, learn, dine and shop in this historic space, now a hub for boat rides, visitor services, lectures, afternoon teas and cultural programs. Serving breakfast and lunch, the Lock 16 Café offers healthy and seasonal cuisine as well as vegetarian-friendly options, all using fresh ingredients and prepared to order. Choose from signature menu items like Land of Lincoln Biscuits & Gravy, Sunrise Tacos or a Sesame Ginger Asian Wrap.
Take a moment to browse around the canal-themed heritage gift shop. Boasting a wide selection of unique items, seasonal décor, cards, books, souvenirs and mementos, the Lock 16 Gift Shop is filled with exclusive items you won’t find anywhere else! Shop for gifts you’ll love to give. Be sure to check out Canal Cargo, the new vintage market across the street from Lock 16.
Near the I&M Canal Visitor Center, 754 1st St. (815-223-1851). On-street parking is available for guests arriving by car. The Center is conveniently located off I-80 and I-39, about two blocks from where the I&M Canal Boat rides depart. Check the Center’s website for hours and other visitor information.
I&M CANAL BOAT
Step aboard the I&M Canal Boat and enjoy the scenery and relaxation of a mule-pulled ride on the historic Illinois & Michigan Canal. “The Volunteer” is a 76-foot-long, 70-passenger boat docked in downtown LaSalle, only 5 miles from Starved Rock State Park. Have fun learning a little history as lively period-dressed guides tell the stories of the I&M Canal Passageway.
Every boat trip begins with “Mule Tending 101” as the guides introduce passengers to the intrepid canal mule, Moe. The Captain regales everyone with tales of life on the canal while his deckhands guide the vessel a mile up the canal to the Little Vermillion aqueduct and back. Special guests like Mary Todd Lincoln, knitting in the corner and sharing fantastic stories of her time in the nation’s capital with President Lincoln, have even been known to ride the boat.
Purchase boat tour tickets online or at the I&M Canal Visitor Center and Lock 16 Café and Gift Shop (754 First Street). Tours run May through October (though you can purchase tickets for the season year round). Visit the online calendar to see available dates. (815-220-1848)
The lot for the I&M Canal Boat, two blocks south of downtown LaSalle, where Ill. Rte. 351/Joliet Street crosses over the I&M Canal.
HEGELER CARUS MUSEUM
A National Historic Landmark, this stately house museum is a showcase of premier 19th century architecture and design. Architecture buffs will notice that the lavish seven-level home features a mansard roof, dormer windows, molded cornices, decorative brackets and a tower crowned by a 30-foot-tall cupola.
The 16,000-square-foot mansion’s breathtaking interior is virtually unchanged since the 19th century. Restoration of the original decor is ongoing. Interpretation focuses on the Hegeler, Matthiessen and Carus families, who were important early industrialists in LaSalle County. Before departing, stop by the downstairs gift shop to check out their fine selection of vintage items and the mansion’s unique collection of books related to philosophy and Victorian life.
Near the Hegeler Carus Mansion, 1307 7th St. Check the Mansion’s website for hours, admission fees and other visitor information.
WHERE TO EAT
Conclude your tour in Lockport & Joliet
GAYLORD BUILDING, WILL COUNTY HISTORICAL MUSEUM, HERITAGE VILLAGE, OLD JOLIET PRISON, & JOLIET IRON WORKS
Get some exercise and see a different section of the canal on foot or bicycle. Walk or ride north to the Gaylord Building, (200 W. 8th St.) The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Gaylord Building features canal exhibits, visitor information and a fine restaurant.
Continue north–enjoying the Lincoln Landing Park along the way and its unique sculpture of Lincoln–and you’ll find the Will County Historical Museum & Research Center (803 S. State St.), which once housed the I&M Canal Commission Headquarters. The museum is filled with treasures that offer insight into Will County’s early days when farmers had to make their own tools and soldiers fought wars with swords.
At 2nd Street, you’ll encounter the Heritage Village (249 W. 2nd St.), a collection of settlement-era buildings from around Will County. The Village includes the Wells Corner schoolhouse, the Symerton Depot, the Greenho farmhouse and the Mokena jail along with other small buildings and farm implements.
Head south towards Joliet past Lock 1, whose massive limestone walls are a mile from the Public Landing. Continue on and you’ll eventually pass canal ruins, a closed amusement park, the Old Joliet Prison (1125 Collins St.) and finally the ruins of the Joliet Iron Works.
The Joliet Iron Works Historic Site (on Columbia Street, east of Route 53/Scott Street) was once the second largest steel mill in the United States. The iron works ran from 1869 to 1936. It eventually became unprofitable, and all operations were ceased in the early 1980s.
As you walk along the Gaylord Donnelley Trail, bear in mind that in Lockport the canal was once twice as wide as it is today, allowing boat captains to pass each other and transact business. When the canal was active, this part of the trail was underwater. Lockport and Joliet were two of the most influential Illinois cities of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Gaylord Donnelley Trail is 11 miles long with a surface that is part paved and part crushed limestone.
Free public parking is available in the Public Landing parking lot, which you can enter at State and 10th streets.