Hennepin Canal Paddling Route: Lock 23 to Lock 24

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Trail Alerts
Safety: Potential Flooding/Water Hazards –

This trail is located close to or on open water, wetlands, or floodplain. Please use caution and be alert for water near or on the trail. Be alert for flooding and swiftly moving water. Check with your local trail manager for more information on closures during periods of high water.

Safety: Be a Safe and Respectful Paddler –

Paddling conditions will vary according to the weather and season, so always exercise caution and always wear a lifejacket; be prepared to swim and never boat alone. File a float plan with a friend who will check up on you. With good judgment and proper equipment, the risk associated with paddling can be minimized. Respect the natural world and the rights of landowners, and be considerate of other outdoor enthusiasts. Paddlers should seek to avoid causing erosion, trampling vegetation, disturbing wildlife, and harming water quality.

Safety: General Dam Warning –

Stay well clear of dams and utilize designated portage areas.

Trailhead Information

To start this trip, park at Lock 23 (GPS address: 24364 Co Rd 22, Atkinson, IL 61235) and carry your boat a short distance west to put-in below Lock 23. You could set a shuttle by leaving a car at Lock 24 (GPS address: 22515 Grange Rd, Geneseo, IL 61254), or enjoy a longer paddle by paddling down and back with minimal current. The lack of current also makes it possible to start at Lock 24 and paddle upstream. Boat ramps are available at Bridge 28 and Lock 24.

The Hennepin Canal Parkway Visitor Center is located just outside the QC Region, near Sheffield, Illinois (one mile south of I-80, just west of Route 40). East or westbound travelers on I-80 should take Exit 45, turn right (south) on Route 40. Then almost immediately cross the Canal and in about 1 mile is the brown sign directing them to the Parkway Visitors Center. Turn right (west) and proceed to the Center. For more info, call 815-454-2328.


Paddling along this section of the Hennepin Canal is a peaceful and portage-free way to enjoy this historic waterway right near the Quad Cities. Pass under nine roads and through Aqueduct 6 at Spring Creek (concrete trough which carried the canal and its traffic across larger rivers and streams). Lock 23 offers primitive camping just west of the parking lot. 

Enjoy your exploration of the canal and the beauty, wildlife, and history that it contains. The waters are calm and will require effort when paddling (without current to assist).

Other Information

The Hennepin Canal played an important role in the history of the United States, and to commerce and industry beginning in the 19th century. The entire canal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Construction of the canal began in 1892 and the first boat, the Marion, went through in 1907, reducing the distance from Chicago to Rock Island by 419 miles. As the canal was under construction, the Corps of Engineers was widening the locks on both the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. With lock chambers 20 and 40 feet narrower than the rivers it connected, the canal was obsolete before the Marion made her initial voyage.

By the 1930s, the canal was used primarily for recreational traffic. The Hennepin and its sister canal, the I & M, tied the Illinois, Des Plaines and Mississippi river systems into a transportation network connecting Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico. The I & M was completed nearly 60 years earlier and helped make Chicago one of the nation's greatest cities. The Hennepin Canal, which at one time was known as the Illinois and Mississippi Canal, was open to boat traffic until 1951. There was no cost to use the canal. Ice made from the canal's frozen waters was sold during the winters to help pay the canal's maintenance costs.

Trail Manager

Visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Hennepin Canal State Trail online for more information or contact:

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Illinois Department of Natural Resources
One Natural Resources Way
Springfield, IL 62702-1271
Phone: (217) 782-6302


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