Any man made canal unlike rivers and streams has no natural drainage system to maintain its water supply. The Illinois Michigan Canal was no different. However, the proposed water supply changed during the construction process. Originally, the proximal or Summit portion was supposed to be a deep cut. The thinking was that a deeper channel would provide for water flow from the south branch of the Chicago River west down the canal. Unfortunately, during the construction, the Canal Commission ran out of money. For a while, work was suspended on the project. Different proposals were discussed to save on costs. One was the shift from a deep cut to a shallow cut on the Summit division. Alternative sources of water supply had to be found. A lock was placed at the junction of the I and M Canal and the south branch of the Chicago River. Two steam powered pumps were placed
at Bridgeport near the original lock 1. These pumped 100 cubic feet per second of water from the Chicago River noto the I and M Canal.
On the eastern end of the canal the Calumet feeder was constructed. This was a 16.7 mile canal. This was first proposed by James Bucklin, chief engineer of the I and M canal in 1830. The final survey for the canal was completed in 1845 by Edward Talcott. The feeder canal was completed in 1848–1849 (other sources put the completion date at 1851 or 1852. It was 4 feet deep. It was 40 feet wide at the surface; 26 feet wide at the base. It extended from the Little Calumet River to to the I and M Canal. This was the last of the feeder canals to be completed.
This was due to the fact that a large section of its course was through a swamp. The ground material had to be dredged by steam excavators. It was too soft to be removed by digging.
In addition to being used as a feeder, it also was used for boat traffic. In 1861–1870, the city of Chicago operated the Bridgeport pumps at the south end of the Chicago River an additional 45 days to flush sewage down the I and M canal canal. Because of this, the feeder canal was no longer used regularly as a water supply to the I and M Canal. The canal was abandoned by the canal commissioners in the 1870’s after the deepening of the Summit division of the Illinois Michigan Canal and subsequent reversal of the flow of the Chicago River.
For several miles, the DuPage River and the I and M Canal parallel each other. Approximately, one mile east of lock 6, the two waterways approach each other. Many references mention the existence of a feeder canal at this site with a lock. In a proceedings of the Canal Commission this feeder is referenced. It was constructed on canal land. It was on a 20 acre site. It was apparently in use for only a short time. This feeder is mentioned in plat book 2, Canal Records
The region of the DuPage River and I and M Canal near locks 6 and 7 is a unique set up unlike any other area in the Illinois Michigan Canal. Originally an aqueduct was proposed for this site. This was abandoned as too expensive.
In the area between Lock 6 and Lock 7, the canal and the DuPage River cross. In other areas of the I and M Canal, when the canal and a river intersect an aqueduct was used. In the area of intersection, a dam was built on the DuPage River. This created an impounded river. This river could be traversed by canal boats. It also could provide a water supply for the canal. The original dam was built in 1840. It was built with timber. In 1877, the dam had to be rebuilt. The canal was abandoned in the 1920’s. The area of Lock 6, Lock 7, and the lock keepers house was rehabilitated by the CCC. A new concrete dam was built. This took place in the 1930’s.
In 1996 a flood damaged the dam, spillway, and the embankment. These areas were all repaired.
Early in the construction of the Illinois Michigan Canal, engineers proposed the need for an additional water source in the Dresden Pool section near Channahon. Their solution was a feeder canal from the Kankakee River near a state dam. It’s origin was in Wilmington. It ran northwest along the north side of the DesPlaines River. It’s total length was 4 and one half miles. It’s original depth was 4 feet. The feeder crosses the DesPlaines River near its mouth by an aqueduct. There were multiple masonry supporting piers. The actual aqueduct was constructed with wood. After crossing the river, the water flowed into the Illinois Michigan Canal.
A report of the chief engineer of the Illinois Michigan Canal dated 1848 placed the cost of the Kankakee Feeder at $84, 513. It is not clear if this includes the cost of the aqueduct over the DesPlaines River
In the 1870’s, the feeder was rebuilt to increase its depth to six feet. This created a navigable waterway between Wilmington and Channahon.
The aqueduct over the DesPlaines River was demolished in the 1930’s
The last feeder canal on the Illinois Michigan Canal was the Fox River Feeder. It began in Dayton and extended south to The Illinois Michigan Canal adjacent to the origin of the lateral canal. It was four miles in length and 40 feet wide. It had its own towpath. Small boats could navigate the channel. During its history, it was plagued with problems. In 1871, it’s channel dried up never to be used again.
The feeder canal crossed the Illinois Michigan Canal and entered the lateral canal. There were multiple mills and grain elevators along this canal. Both the feeder canal and the lateral canal were filled in in the 1930’s. During the same time period, coal was mined in the bed of the feeder canal