I had the privilege to work at Illinois and Michigan State Park for two summers when I was in college. As a park maintenance worker, I cut grass, made signs, and painted bridges in the middle of nowhere. My friend and I also painted the locktender’s house from the 1840s. Besides hard work (which we loved), we saw love affairs in the park, as well as people in various stages of undress in the campground. Trust me: when you think nobody’s looking, they are.
The Illinois and Michigan Canal transported goods and passengers down from Chicago to the Illinois River. The Illinois River connects with the Mississippi. Irish immigrants built the canal. You can find their cemeteries, churches, mule barns, and saloons along the canal. In Lockport, Illinois where I went to high school, there are old limestone warehouses: one is now an Illinois State museum that features art exhibits (1850); the other is a marvelous restaurant (1838).
Train traffic put the canal out of business. The iron horse was faster than mules pulling barges. Today, people love to fish in the canal, and the towpath is a biking and hiking trail. You can still see locktenders’ houses and locks along the way. I mention the canal in my novel For Such A Time As This. My main character Jill McKendrick leaves her father’s locktender’s house to find a better life in the West.