Monday, August 1, 2016

Illinois River Lock and Dam #6

Just across the river from Starved Rock State Park is Lock #6 of the Illinois River Waterway operated by the Army Corp or Engineers.

All morning I watched activity at the lock across the river while hiking the State Park

As the crowds began to reach (And exceed!) critical levels over at the State Park I decided to call it a day. On my way back through Utica I impulsively hung a right onto a county road just after crossing the bridge, thinking that as long as I'm here I might as well go take a peek at the lock.

When I saw that the sign on the building called it a Visitor Center, my peek turned into a stop.

The visitor center was pretty friendly, but the actual operations center, there beyond the tow-boat propeller on display by the parking lot, was well fenced and barricaded. Oh darn! I was so looking forward to barging on in there (Get it? Barging!) and operating the lock myself. . .

This photo actually has nothing to do with the lock, other than I took it from the lock side of the river.

What you're looking at here is the actual Starved Rock of Starved Rock State Park. So named because of the legend around it. The one were some disgruntled natives killed a popular chief then escaped to the top of the rock (Which obviously wasn't called Starved Rock just yet.) According to legend, some of the dead chief's followers surrounded the rock and camped out until those up top eventually starved to death. Hence the current name.

Might seem a little far fetched but the rock is much steeper and higher than it looks in the photo. As you're climbing the stairs up to the top of the rock, look over the side and imagine trying to scale it, up or down, without benefit of treated timber steps and sturdy railings.

Inside the Visitor's Center is a bunch of maps and info-plaques explaining the history, importance and operation of the waterway and lock, as well as displays of historical artifacts.

 The retractable pilot house on some towboats could be raised high enough to see over the barges ahead (Kind of important I would think!) but also lowered enough to slip under the low bridges (Also kind of important!)  found where the river snakes through Chicago.

Hanging off the back of the Visitor Center is an observation deck where operation of the lock can be - well - observed.

Ahem!  I said;  where operation of the lock can be observed.


Anybody out there?

Oh crap!

All morning long and into the early afternoon the lock was busy. I know it was because I could see it, albeit from afar, while hiking over there across the river. But apparently as soon as I decided to drop in (I knew it!!  I knew I was being watched and persecuted!) all the river traffic decided to be somewhere else.

In fact, turns out the next scheduled tow wasn't until later in the evening. Something I decided not to stick around for.

OK, has anybody checked the lock for a mangled canoe? . . .  Anyone??

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