There is a 2.4 mile section of the Illinois Michigan Canal west of Utica that is steeped in history. First encountered is a deserted railroad bridge. This was apparently built by the Rock Island and later abandoned.
Approximately one mile west is the Pecumsaugan Creek. There is the creek itself. North of the canal and railroad tracks along the creek is the area of the Blackball Mines. This is a restricted area managed by the DNR. It contains abandoned limestone mines. It is also known for its collection of rare bats.
John Clark, the engineer in charge of the construction of this section of the Illinois Michigan Canal, discovered limestone deposits in the cliffs next to the canal. This was an important discovery because this was used to manufacture hydraulic cement. When limestone is heated it decomposes to a natural cement (hydraulic cement). This hardens under water.
Norton and Steele built a mill in 1838 to supply the I and M canal with hydraulic cement during its construction. This was sold to Mr. Clark it in 1845 and he founded Utica Hydraulic Cement Company. Other mines were established in this area. One was Blackball mine. Utica Hydraulic purchased these mines. The cement company continued in business until to 1947.
On our trip these mines were not readily apparent apparently obscured by trees and foliage.
South of the canal between the canal and the Illinois River is Split Rock Lake
The Split Rock and Lock 13 will be dealt in part 2