When my wife rode on the mule-pulled LaSalle Canal Boat (http://www.lasallecanalboat.org) with the Plus 60 Travel Club earlier this year, I was under the weather and opted out of the trip. I was feeling better in late October wanted to ride the boat before it closed for the season at the end of October, so I reserved two seats online and we headed to LaSalle, Ill.
The LaSalle Canal Boat is a full-size replica of the 1800s canal boats that once carried passengers and cargo on the I&M Canal. The hand-dug, 96-mile Illinois and Michigan Canal, just 3 to 4 feet deep, extends from the Illinois River at LaSalle-Peru to Bridgeport, near Chicago. It connects the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.
Our 76-by-15-foot boat — built in 2008, and named Volunteer — is docked in downtown LaSalle, near Starved Rock State Park and the LaSalle Canal Boat and Lock 16 Visitor Center Café & Gift Shop, which offers dining, shopping, information, exhibits, lectures, afternoon teas and cultural programs.
The Visitor Center is also where tickets, even if reserved online, are picked up. They are a reasonable $14 each or just $12 for senior citizens. Kids ride free. A $2 service charge is added to each ticket for reserving seats online. All proceeds generated from the café, gift shop and ticket sales support the operations, mission and preservation of the I&M National Heritage Corridor.
The boat operates three times a day. It has an enclosed first deck and an open-air second deck. The mule, walking on a path on shore, pulls the boat with little effort by a rope one half-hour in one direction, then one half-hour in the other direction back to the dock. We were on the 11:30 a.m. ride with about a dozen other passengers. A tour guide provided lots of information both before and during the cruise.
Moe, a 1,600-pound, 28-year-old mule, pulled our ride. Moe was available for petting and photographs before and after the ride. Our tour guide also gave us marshmallows to feed him as a treat.
We found the LaSalle Canal Boat ride an inexpensive and relaxing way to spend some time.
Copyright 2015 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.