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    Re: Illinois drainage
    From: Phil Camera
    Date: 2005 Nov 21, 16:45 +0000
    I hail from the Chicago area and can answer most of this.  In the olden days, the Chicago River flowed into Lake Michigan.  All the sewage, either intentionally thrown into the river or from storm floods, ended up in the lake where the drinking water was taken from.  Just SW of Chicago (the suburb of Blue Island is part of the high ground) is the highest point.  The engineering feat of its day (before steam engines, so still used horses and mules) was to dig the Illinois & Michigan Canal (linking Lake Michigan with the Illinois River and thusly to the Mississippi).  This allowed, using a series of lock & dams, the Chicago River to have it's flow reversed and thusly solving the sanitation problem of the day and allowed commerce to travel from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and down to the southern states. (Back in those days, St. Louis was a bigger "city" and it's thought that the establishment of the I&M Canal signalle! d the turnaround for Chicago to become the future "Hub of the MidWest".)  The Canal hooked up with the Illinois River at LaSalle, Illinois.  The canal was well travelled (mules on either side pulled cargo and passenger barges) until the steam engine and railroads were developed. Now the canal is a state park and trail and the public can canoe down portions of it and hike along the old mule paths.
    The first few miles of I-55 highway on the SW side of Chicago and continuing SW were built on top of the I&M Canal and the present day Sanitary and Ship Canal, paralleled the I&M but they are two different canals.
    I think the high point is somewhere near Palos Heights, about 20 miles CW from downtown Chicago.
    Phil Camera
    Lockport Illinois    (Guess what was found in Lockport?)
    (next to Joliet)
    -------------- Original message --------------

    > To be honest, this isn't really a question about navigation, but about
    > geography and hydraulics. But some Nav-l contributors hail from the Illinois
    > area, so perhaps know the answer.
    > I've been reading an odd book, published in 1911, The Log of the "Easy Way".
    > This is about the voyage of a young couple, in 1900-01, in a house-boat or
    > "shanty-boat", drifting down the Mississippee to New Orleans. The journey
    > started in Chicago, with a tow through the "Old Canal", which presumably was
    > later enlarged into the present Ship Canal. Then down the Illinois River to
    > the Miss.
    > The book took my interest as it took in the same stretch of the Miss.,
    > between St Louis and Cairo, as had been used by Lewis and Clark, a century
    > before,! to reach their official setoff point.
    > I'm aware of (and have always been rather puzzled by) how close the drainage
    > of the Miss. basin comes to the Great Lakes, West of Chicago, but have
    > presumed there's a narrow watershed, close West and South of Lake Michigan,
    > which prevents that lake from spilling over to end up at New Orleans.
    > And yet, in this book, the author, having reached the Illinois River,
    > comments after passing La Salle / Peru, that "Its water may come from the
    > cold, clear depths of Lake Michigan but ... ". Surely not, I surmise. If
    > that had ever been the case, the watercourse would have eroded over the
    > millennia to become, by now, a torrent. Is it even hydraulically possible,
    > even if the ground West of Lake Michigan is permeable to underground flow?
    > That would require the water level in the upper Illinois to be lower, with
    > respect to sea-l! evel, than is Lake Michigan, at 580 feet? Is that the case?
    > Presumably, there's a dividing line somewhere, on one side of which, if you
    > pee on the ground, it will end up in the St. Lawrence, and on the other
    > side, in the Gulf of Mexico. How far do you have to travel from Lake
    > Michigan, to reach that line? It's not an important matter, but it interests
    > me.
    > George.
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