Mercury schedules sailings of the Illinois and Michigan Canal

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 125-seat Skyline Queen is the vessel used on Mercury's cruises of historic waterways. 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

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