IDNR Approved Activites
The Hennepin Canal Visitor Center is located just off of Rt 80 via exit 45. The center is located right along the towpath, so you can stop in along your hike to use the restroom facilities and view the museum displays. At the time the canal was built workers often made their own tools by hand, some of which are on display. There is also a model of a lock system and of an aqueduct, as well as, many preserved Illinois wildlife species. The Visitor Center is open Monday-Friday, 7:30AM-3:30PM.
Just outside the Visitor Center is a beautiful half-acre patch of wildflower prairie. Among the plantings are little bluestem and big bluestem– the official state prairie grass..
Picnic tables are sprinkled throughout the day use areas and main complex for your relaxation and enjoyment. Three shelters in the park’s main complex near Sheffield provide areas for group gatherings, the largest one can be reserved. Call the site office to make a reservation. The largest shelter is handicapped accessible. Playground equipment, located at the largest shelter, will keep the kids busy while the grownups have a chance to chat. Drinking water is currently unavailable at Locks 21 and 22, however, there is a hydrant on the south side of the Visitor Center for use when the center is closed. Outdoor toilets are located at Locks 3, 6, 11, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 26; Bridges 14, 15 and 23, as well as the Visitor Center on the Main Canal. There are facilities at Bridges 50, 52 and 64 on the feeder canal.
An old tow path, originally intended but never used by animals for towing boats along the canal’s main line and feeder routes, provides 105 miles of one-foot-after-the-other fun. Because you’re right next to the canal, you’ll get a great view of its locks and aqueducts, not to mention the animal life. The going is level and easy at the Hennepin — but be sure to make several stops along the way if you’re hiking the canal’s entire length.
If you’re up to something more challenging, try the 4.5-mile trek in the main complex which is moderately difficult and gives you a broad taste of landscape from tall timber to grasslands to marsh. This trail begins directly across from the Visitor Center parking lot.
Hiking the Hennepin is particularly satisfying in the fall, when Mother Nature works her wonders on the leaves.
East to west the trail is surfaced from Bureau Junction, near the Illinois River, to Colona on the Rock River. A feeder canal to Rock Falls, 29.2 miles long, also is surfaced. Bring your own refreshments as only the Visitor Center has drinking water available. Be sure to yield the right-of-way to horses.
It’s a well-kept secret, but fishing along the Hennepin is well worth the trip. Whether you’re angling for bluegill, crappie, walleye or bass, 70 bridge or 32 lock locations are available and the pools are regularly stocked.
There’s unlimited horsepower for boats between bridge 37 and Lock 24 at the Hennepin; elsewhere it’s 10 horsepower. Take off on the launching ramps at the Visitor Center complex, Locks 21, 22 or 24, Route 82 north of Geneseo, Route 92, Route 78 north of Annawan, bridge 39, 28 or 45.
If canoeing is your sport, come ready for a workout, as the waters are calm and back and arm power are required. The locks are no longer operational and must be portaged (from Lock 21 east is particularly tough). For a great one-or two-day trip, begin at Rock Falls and continue to the Visitor Center. Check out the Hennepin Canal Recreational Guide on the park’s main page for additional details about portaging.
Class “C” and Youth Group camping are allowed along the Hennepin Canal Parkway at the following locations:
- Lock 6, north bank East of lock
- Lock 11, west of the Canal Prism
- Lock 17, northwest of the lock
- Lock 21, North Day Use Area
- Bridge 14, north bank.
- Lock 22, southwest of the lift bridge (drinking water available)
- Bridge 23, south bank
- Lock 23, just west of the parking lot.
- Lock 26, south bank
Equestrian camping is restricted to the south side of the Lock 21 area. Clean up after your horses.
Vehicular (RV, pop-up) camping is allowed and is the same rate as tent camping, $8.00 per family unit. There are no dumping/pump-out stations located at the park.
The canal’s horse trails are open from April 15 to October 31. Bring your own horse and prepare to enjoy 48 miles along the main canal and more than 25 miles along the feeder. Gallop to your heart’s delight along the corridor. The equestrian trail on the mailine begins at Lock 2 and ends at Lock 24. The equestrian trail on the feeder canal begins/ends at Bridge 46 (just south of Interstate 88). Stay out of the picnic areas and off the tow path unless going around an aqueduct where you will be sharing surfaces with bicyclists and pedestrians. An equestrian campground is located at Lock 21.
Take a shot at dove hunting during season at the park’s main complex. Enjoy waterfowl hunting on Lake Sinnissippi near the Rock River, where more than 30 blind sites are awarded in an annual draw. For more information, please review the Hunter Fact Sheet
When the snowflakes fall, break out the skis and go cross country on 4.5 miles of moderately difficult cross country ski trail in the main complex. You can also venture out onto the canal’s trails, but keep an eye out for snowmobilers who often run at high speeds.
Ice skating is permitted on the canal, however, it is at your own risk and we do not monitor ice thickness. The canal is approximately 7 feet deep at a maximum in any given location along the waterway.
The Hennepin Canal boasts the longest snowmobile trail in the state — 91 miles on the tow path.Snowmobiling on the Hennepin Canal trail is allowed when the trails are declared open by site staff. To check if the trails are open, call the visitor center at 815-454-2328. A pre-recorded message is left during winter hours to indicate daily trail status. Or visit us on Facebook for trail status.
The trail is either open or closed; there are NO partial openings/closings. To declare the trail open requires 4 inches of snow on the ground & 6 inches of frost in the ground. When the trail is closed, the entire park is closed to snowmobile use.
Our trails are NOT groomed. Riding the ice is at your own risk, as the snowmobile trails are the only DESIGNATED place to ride snowmobiles. The ice is often thinner at the locks, bridges, and culverts, and does not always solidly freeze inside the tubes. The snowmobile trail side on the towpath is designated with signs and is also listed in the table below.
|Mainline canal snowmobile routes||Towpath||Miles|
|Lock 2-Bridge 15||South towpath||21.7|
|Bridge 15-Bridge 17A||North towpath||4.8|
|Bridge 17A-Bridge 18A||South towpath||0.5|
|Bridge 18A-Bridge 39||North towpath||23.7|
|Bridge 39-Bridge 40||South towpath||2.7|
|Bridge 42A-Lock 29||South towpath||1.5|
|Feeder canal snowmobile route||Towpath||Miles|
|Bridge 45||West towpath||27.5|
**Please be aware of and respect other people who may be using the Canal for other recreational purposes. Use extreme caution when crossing roads as there are automobile vs snowmobile accidents each year.
We enforce all regulations and laws concerning the use and operation of a snowmobile at the Hennepin Canal Parkway.
Feeder canal snowmobile routes:
Bridge 44 (Dixon Ave., Rock Falls) to Bridge 56 (Route 92); West towpath, 16.6 miles
SPECIAL NOTE: No motorized vehicles, except for snowmobiles during designated times, are allowed on the tow path. SNOWMOBILING INFORMATION SHEET
Directions to the Visitor Center
The Hennepin Canal Parkway basically parallels I-80 in Bureau and Henry counties in west central Illinois. The Parkway’s Visitor Center is one mile south of I-80, just west of Route 40. East or westbound travelers on I-80 should take Exit 45, turn south on Route 40. They almost immediately cross the Canal and in about 1 mile is the brown sign directing them to the Parkway Visitors Center. Turn right (west) and proceed to the Center.
While groups of 25 or more are welcome and encouraged to use the park’s facilities, they are required to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling conflicts.
- At least one responsible adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
- Pets must be kept on leashes at all times.
- Actions by nature can result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park office before you make your trip.
- We hope you enjoy your stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
Accessibility at Hennepin Canal:
- Parking – Paved parking lots are located at the visitor center, at each of the thirty-three locks on the canal, and at bridges 15, 17, 28, 31, 34, 45, 46, 47, 48, and 56. There is a 200′ concrete sidewalk from the parking lot to the visitor center that has a slight incline.
- Restrooms – Accessible vault toilets are available throughout the canal. The visitor center has accessible flush toilets available.
- Picnicking – A large shelter is available with access from the main parking lot with ADA picnic tables.
- Trails – The Hennepin Canal trail is a concrete wheelchair accessible trail that can be accessed from the visitor center via the 300′ long oil and chip path from the parking lot.
- Service animals are welcome on the canal, and water is available near the large shelter by the visitor center parking lot.
- Visitor Center – The exhibits in the center are tactile with informational displays. There are no braille or audio equipment displays. Accessible restrooms are available and chairs for sitting.
Parking lots are located at the following locations along the Hennepin Canal:
- Mainline canal parking lots:
- Lock 3
- Lock 6
- Lock 11
- Lock 17
- Lock 21
- Bridge 14
- Visitor Center
- Bridge 15
- Bridge 16
- Bridge 17
- Bridge 18A
- Lock 22
- Bridge 22
- Bridge 23
- Lock 23
- Bridge 29
- Bridge 30
- Bridge 38
- Bridge 39
- Lock 26
- Bridge 41
- Lock 28
- Lock 29
- Lock 30
- Lock 31
- Lock 32
- Lock 33
- Feeder canal parking lots:
- Bridge 64
- Bridge 63
- Bridge 62
- Bridge 61
- Bridge 60
- Bridge 59
- Bridge 58
- Bridge 57
- Bridge 56
- Bridge 55
- Bridge 54
- Bridge 53
- Bridge 52
- Bridge 51
- Bridge 50
- Bridge 49
- Bridge 48
- Bridge 47
- Bridge 46
- Bridge 45