Mississippi River Project maintenance crews with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District demolish a portion of the lower guidewall at Locks and Dam 15 in Rock Island, Illinois. Removing the concrete will prevent the wall from falling into the river in an uncontrolled manner.
Erie Canal, Illinois Waterway To Open for a Fall Loop
With the repair schedules for the Erie and Illinois canals announced, the good news is that the American Great Loop is doable with a 2020 start date. The bad news is: It won't be that much fun.
The New York State Canal Corporation recently annouced that the Mohawk Valley and Central New York segments of the Erie Canal will be the last to open with lock-through possible no later than Aug. 10. A more serious impediment is the Illinois Waterway, which won't be open for transit until work is finished on the Starved Rock and Marsailles locks by Oct. 29.
Joe Pica, who completed the Loop three times, prounounced the loop "doable," assuming repairs stay on schedule, but with a caveat: "They will be chasing winter south as the Illinois locks reopen on Nov. 1," Pica says. "And then they will contend with a back log of barges and all the other loopers in a clot. loading up anchorages and marinas."
Still the American Great Loop Cruisers Association has a plan, and for some that means not looping at all, but going back the way they came.
"We have about 50-plus Loop boats still planning to go through the New YorkCanal system," says Kim Russo, AGLCA executive director. "Some of them will proceed through the Great Lakes and arrive in Chicago at some time shortly before the Illinois reopens. From a timing perspective, going through the New York canals in mid-August and making it to Chicago in late October isn’t all that different from those who typically go through the canals in June and arrive in Chicago in early September. That said, it’s a much smaller number of Loopers that will continue with their Loop this year. Of the 50-plus still planning to go through the New York Canals, many will turn around and head south for the winter along the east coast, then restart the Loop next year."
For some would-be Loopers it was not just lock repairs that were discouraging; it was the general state of the nation at this moment in history, particularly the spread of the Coronavirus.
Norm Miller of Indiana opted out of the Loop and has docked his Great Harbour 47 at Brunswick Landing in Georgia. "We decided to find a place to leave he boat where it would be secure when were not there," Miller says. "We were hopeful that sometime in fall the (Coronavirus) risk would not be high, but now we’re not sure. For us doing the the Loop is for the cruising but also to explore the things ashore and learn things we didn’t know before. We’re going to continue to be in limbo until we feel its safe to go out."