There’s some bad news for anyone contemplating the Great Loop, or just cruising in the Midwest, this summer. The Army Corps of Engineers is closing three locks on the Illinois Waterway that connects Lake Michigan to the Mississippi for repairs all summer.
The entire Waterway along the Illinois River has eight locks and dams that the Army Corps says are long overdue for repairs. The Corps had a short closure in 2019 and a longer one in 2020. This summer will also be a long one, but the closures are scheduled to occur simultaneously to lessen the impact to the extensive commercial shipping that relies on the Waterway as well as on recreational boating.
During the closures, no vessels will be able to pass through the locks, but navigation on the rest of the Illinois River between the locks will not be affected.
The three locks will be closed for 120 days from June 1 to September 30. They are:
Brandon Road Lock and Dam, river mile 286.
Dresden Island Lock and Dam, river mile 271.5.
Marseilles Lock and Dam, river mile 244.6.
The locks are about 100 years old; they were built between 1920 and 1933, and need major repairs. The Army Corps had to plan the closing around the harvest season in the fall, when much of the country’s grain is shipped by barge.
For cruising people, the goal would be to pass through the Waterway before June 1, which would mean an early start for anyone on the East Coast. But waiting until after September 30 could mean unpredictable weather on the Great Lakes or the Mississippi. People with trailerable boats, of course, can simply avoid the problem entirely by driving around the affected area.
The Army Corps says you can find more information about the closures by calling 309 794-5729.