CHICAGO -- The Illinois and Michigan Canal, one of the most
important waterway systems in the U.S., is the focus of daylong
cruises operated by Mercury, Chicago's Skyline Cruiseline.
The cruises, scheduled for Sept. 25 and Oct. 2 and 3, will depart
at 9 a.m. from Mercury's dock on the lower level and southwest
corner of the Michigan Avenue bridge.
The sailings tour the Chicago River, the Calumet River, the
Cal-Sag Channel, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, and Lake
Michigan. These waterways are the northernmost part of the Illinois
and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, an urban cultural
park comprising waterways, towns, parks, forest preserves and
historical attractions spanning five Illinois counties.
The Illinois and Michigan Canal began in 1836 as ground was
broken in Bridgeport near the present 2800 block of South Ashland
Avenue. In April 1848, 12 years after groundbreaking, the General
Thornton was the first vessel to travel the entire length of the
canal. Originating in New Orleans with a cargo of sugar, the
General Thornton was destined for New York via the Erie Canal.
It is widely acknowledged that the arrival of the General
Thornton officially opened the Midwest to commerce and solidly
established Chicago as the main hub. The corridor was designated a
part of the National Park Service in 1984.
David Solzman, associate professor of geography at the
University of Illinois at Chicago, accompanies the cruise and
provides commentary on the historical, social, economic and
environmental significance of the corridor.
"This is not like a visit to a museum, but rather an opportunity
to participate in the changing life of the area by traveling
through the very territory that provided the key to Chicago's
foundation and subsequent development," Solzman said.
The company's cruises take place aboard the 125-seat Skyline
Queen, which offers both open-air and enclosed-area seating. The
tour package includes tour materials and coffee. Visitors can bring
their own lunch.
The cost is $61 for adults and children; a reduced rate of $57
per person is available to groups of 25 or more. All cruises leave
the Mercury dock at 9 a.m. and return at about 4 p.m.
Mercury, Chicago's Skyline Cruiseline
Phone: (312) 332-1366