In 1848 the Illinois and Michigan Canal provided the final shipping link between the East Coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico. From Chicago the canal angled southwest, running beside the Des Plaines and Illinois Rivers halfway across the state. Thanks to the 96-mile-long canal, Chicago quickly became the largest and most efficient grain market in the world. The canal towpath, originally used by mules for pulling boats through the canal, has been transformed into a 61.9-mile crushed gravel path running from the outskirts of Joliet to the town of La Salle.
From end to end, the route wanders through a variety of landscapes: dense woods, marshes, prairies, riverbanks, agricultural land, and small towns. The length of this trail may present a challenge even for well-prepared athletes. While amenities exist along the way, some sections are very remote.
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