Illinois Waterway Visitor Center

During the 1920s and '30s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built 8 dams and locks to create a navigable "stairway" that drops 163 feet over the course of some 330 miles, linking the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Each dam in the Illinois Waterway produces a long, narrow lake with a nine-foot-deep navigation channel, while the locks provide river traffic with safe passage around the dams by raising or lowering the vessels to the next "step" in the stairway. Radio transmissions between boats and the Starved Rock Lock are carried over a public address system, making the locking-through process interesting both to see and hear.

Activity Details

Activity Type:Trips and Destinations
Grade:K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Time:Full day

Fun Fact:French explorers Robert La Salle and Henri de Tonti built Ft. St. Louis at Starved Rock in 1682-83. A nearby 1000-year-old Indian settlement helped turn the area into a major trading center. Soon after the fort was abandoned in 1691, the Indians also left. The site of their village was flooded in 1933, when the Starved Rock Lock and Dam were built.
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