Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Matthiessen State Park Fall

Matthiessen State Park is across the street from Starved Rock State Park and shares some of the geology. For most people, this park is associated with images of the canyon and its multiple waterfalls.
Lake Falls
The canyon is narrow and in periods of heavy water flow, the narrow ledges that one walks on can be underwater. During the fall, the canyon is popular and tends to get very crowded making it difficult to walk around without getting a little wet.
Giant Bathtub Falls
Just like Starved Rock, this State Park also borders a river, in this case the Vermillion River. Although there is easy access to this part of the park I can count with one hand the number of people I have encountered during my visits, even during peak fall color. The hike from the parking lot is downhill through the woods. Make sure to read the signs along the trail to avoiding hiking further into the woods instead of towards the river (I ran into a couple that had done just that and were lost for some time),
Vermillion River Color
The riverbed is rocky and is surrounded on both sides by woods. During periods of heavy water flow, the river has rapids and in the past rafting was allowed on this part of the river (I believe it is no longer allowed due to safety issues). I was walking very carefully around and between the rocks trying not to repeat the incident in Puerto Rico (twisted my ankle). This whole portion of the river is very picturesque, specially during late afternoon when the light hits the cliffs and tree tops creating colorful reflections in the water. So for those in the area, hike the canyon but spend some time unwinding on the quiet side of the park.
Vermillion River Cliffs

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Autumn Walk Along the Canal

Today I'm taking you down to Channahon, IL for a short stroll along the I&M Canal. This is one of my favorite areas of the canal (I still have a lot to explore!). Although lock 6 and it's locktender house is just a few hundred feet away, we will start on lock 7. From our view point we can see the lock and to the left, the runoff channel. Although most of the trees have lost their leafs, some shrubs still are very green.
I&M Canal Lock 7 in Fall
 If we continue hiking downstream just before we enter McKinley Woods, there is a beautiful portion of the canal which is surrounded by farmland. Some Autumn color was still lingering on the trees. Between the windy days and the brief cold spell, fall color did not last very long.
I&M Canal in Autumn
As we continue our walk, we enter McKinley Woods. The canal here runs against a bluff which provides a great backdrop during the fall. There is a lot of vegetation along the towpath which makes it difficult to get a clear view but the views that are there are gorgeous.
I&M Canal along McKinely Woods
Oaks in autumn glory provide a beautiful backdrop to the canal
The canal here runs parallel to the DesPlaines River and less than a mile down the towpath is the confluence of this river with the Kankakee River, birthplace of the Illinois River. Although the Illinois River is so close, canal boats would travel another 40+ miles on the canal moving though other 7 locks before entering this great river.

Come back on Saturday to see how much the canal changed in three weeks.