Floods Covering Historic Illinois Canal Land
Flooding caused park closures, washouts and future repair jobs for both Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park and Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail, the News Tribune, La Salle, Ill., reported.
Illinois & Michigan Canal damage
The I&M Canal trail between Utica and Ottawa was closed for more than two years after creek flooding in 2008, and some of the same spots on the trail likely are damaged again this time, said Dan Bell, superintendent for 62 miles of the I&M Canal trail and Buffalo Rock, Gebhard Woods, Channahon and William B. Stratton state parks. All four parks and the entire trail still were closed Wednesday morning (April 24).
Bell said the Higbee Run culvert about 2 miles east of Utica surely is blown out again. Also, Pecumsaugan Creek between La Salle and Utica can create some trail washout problems, and Nettle Creek at Morris destroyed an aqueduct that keeps water in a three-mile section at Gebhard Woods State Park.
“We’ll have to fix it for sure,” Hahne said, adding that the aqueduct hadn’t been replaced since 1934 or ’35. “That’s my plan is to fix all those sections of trail that have been damaged and get it open as soon as possible.”
DNR staff members have not looked at all of the rural sections of the canal because of road closings such as Dee Bennett Road, and have not been able to assess damage at Lock 14 at La Salle due to continued flooding.
“We can’t get down there to it,”Bell said, adding that he hopes to start assessing damage from the east end to the west starting Thursday or Friday. The DNR will send its reports to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
On the eastern section of Hennepin Canal in Bureau County, a five-mile stretch from Bridge 4 (near Lock 6 east of Tiskilwa) to Lock 3 west of Bureau Junction, has been closed, said park superintendent Dave Hahne.
“We did not lose water. Bureau Creek over-topped us between Tiskilwa and Bureau Junction, (and) washed out a portion of the levee on the north side in a couple of different locations,” Hahne said, adding that the flooding washed out a section of trail and caused levee damage along the south side.
That same stretch of the parkway was damaged in the 2008-09 floods and eventually repaired.
“Those levees actually were brought up to 100-year flood elevation levels. Unfortunately we seem to get 100-year flood events every five years,” Hahne said.
Hahne also oversees Mautino State Fish and Wildlife Area. The first parking lot and lake near the entrance to the park remain open. The rest is not accessible because a “tube on the roadway washed out.”
Green River and Rock River flooding is impacting the west end of the Hennepin Canal, he said.
On May 1, there will be limited access to the Lock 21 use area due to a previously scheduled road enhancement project, according to the DNR website. Visitors to the area are encouraged and urged to be cautious of construction equipment when visiting that site.
Trail and parking lot closings at Starved Rock State Park were listed in Wednesday’s News Tribune. The campground, visitors center, St. Louis Canyon, a trail to Starved Rock from the lodge and a trail to the lodge from the St. Louis Canyon lot should be open this weekend. Other trals and lots are closed or flooded.
The boat ramp at Illini State Park and Mallard Bay Shelter area are closed due to flooding. Illiniwek Trail is closed due to flooding. River Meadows, Ancient Oaks, Wildcat Bog day use areas are closed. Sunrise Council, a CCC shelter, is closed indefinitely, according to the DNR site. Anyone wishing to visit the park is asked to call (815) 795-2448.