Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Channahon State Park and I&M Canal Trail

On the weekend of October 19-20, 2013, I was pleased to join a small group trip from Channahon State Park down the I&M Canal State Trail. Markglist from hammockforums organized the trip and he rode in on his bicycle in the morning. I met Tim J. and MagicPaddler at about 1:00 p.m. at the Channahon State Park office. Tim J. allowed me to paddle with him in his Wenonah royalex tandem canoe. MagicPaddler had his Bell Magic solo boat.

The weather was spectacular. After a threat of some rain, the clouds moved out and we had a bright, crisp fall afternoon just made for being outdoors!! We put in right near the parking lot and canoed about 4 miles to the lookout point at the southern tip of McKinley Woods. A big bald eagle was hovering just over us as we pulled in at the lookout. We were just a bit shy of our goal and we paddled another few hundred yards to the state campground. When we got there at about 3:30 pm, Mark had a nice fire going and a big pile of firewood all ready to go for the night!! I had wet feet from disembarking in the water, so I was very happy to see that hot fire blazing! THANKS, MARK!! It started to rain later and we hit the hay about 9:30 or so. It rained off and on for a few hours and then we were treated to big, bright moon.

On Sunday at 6:30 a.m., the civil war re-enactors started shooting cannon down river a mile or so. There is no sleeping through that! I did hear an owl and a turkey early in the morning, along with ducks, geese, and several songbirds. And the blue jays were plentiful. After a leisurely breakfast, we broke camp, Mark hopped on his ride, and we shoved off to paddle back up to Channahon. The weather was even better on Sunday than Saturday. Warm sun and a gentle breeze welcomed us onto the water and we looked at all sorts of flora and fauna as we paddled. What a great way to start the day!

There is plenty of room at the site we chose. Hammock trees are easy to find and tent sites are wide, flat and grassy. IL DNR has just installed a brand new toilet house. I think maybe the old one was moved a few feet further from the river’s edge because the old site was just sowed with grass seed within the last week or two. (The grass hadn’t even sprouted yet.) I am told that other camp sites along the trail are similar, if not necessarily as big.

Channahon State Park is a small park that is the official trailhead of the I&M Canal State Trail. There is nice camping on a smooth grass field. The main attraction in the park is the restored locktender’s house and Lock 6.

Trail access is right from the main part of the park. The I&M Canal Trail runs along the old Illinois & Michigan Canal. Right where the trail begins the canal meets the DuPage and DesPlaines Rivers. The trail is a crushed limestone path that runs 61.5 miles to the southwest terminating at Lock 16 in the LaSalle-Peru area. This trail is actually smooth enough for wheelchair access along almost all of its length. You can actually go east from Channahon to Rockdale if you want to cover every inch of the trail. All along the trail are several other state parks. The campsites along the trail are not advertised or marked, but you will find them if you look for them.

The trail is full of Illinois history tracing the story of the first French explorers meeting the local tribes, to the development of the towns and cities all along the way. It can reasonably be argued that the canal is what made Chicago into a world port city. Even the smallest amount of research will turn up dozens, if not hundreds, of sources of information about the whole area and all its history.

The new things I tried this time:
1. Neck Pillow: I like it. Stays on when you get up for nature break and keeps your neck warm, too.
2. The HG 12 foot CF tarp. I like it. The Dejoha rigging with Dutchware makes set up and adjustment really easy. And it is HUGE!
3. PackItGourmet Chicken ‘n’ Dumplings: I like it. Hot, easy, and hearty. Just add boiling water to the bag and let it steep for 10-15 minutes.
4. Hammock Gear UQ with retrofit suspension: The older style heavier duty main shock cord is much better than the experimental suspension that my UQ came with originally. Snugs up so much better and stays snug…YES!
5. Canoeing in an IL State Park: I love canoeing and I love camping…combined is the best way to go!!

Here is the video. I forgot to take my camera out before we started to paddle on Saturday, so I have no shots of the downstream trip…Enjoy!


  1. Great write-up! I know this is almost 4 years old, so not sure if you will even see this. But, does Channahon State Park have good trees for hanging; or is McKinley woods the only option?

  2. The CSP campground is a big grassy area. I never hammock camped there, but I have tent camped. It is very nice and cars park quite close to the campsites. On the I&M Canal there are several campsites. Those all have very good hanging options.