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|Everybody needs a dream and a dream-machine. For
many of us, living on our boat while cruising America’s
Great Loop is the dream. Our boat is the dream-machine.
If you have this dream, we need to work together to keep
the dream alive. Otherwise, our dream deficiency may
cause our spirit to wither, and we could die of mental
malnutrition; but don't despair.
The dream factory is still open, and there are an
endless number of dreamers that share this one.
By the numbers:
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thing, and in fact, encourage you to save your money for
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Of course, the closure will demand a big time decision for
those 10,000 (plus) boaters in the greater Chicago
metropolitan area with vessels too large to trailer. They will
have to decide on which side of the hard lock they want to dock
and store their boat, inland behind the locks, or on Lake
For future Loopers, it is a real "Dream Buster" much like
having the rug yanked from under your feet - just as you are
one step away from reaching your goal.
For others, a voyage "up" the Mississippi may not be so
pleasant, practical, or even possible. For those living on the
Great Lakes the closure would be dramatic to say the least. As
they (for example) instead of boating a few hundred miles to
reach America's Heartland, would have to travel some 5,000
miles - and then "turn around" and travel 5,000 more to get
Certainly a "hard lock" closure would prevent the Asian carp
from entering the Great Lakes at this junction on Lake
Michigan, but would it stop Asian carp from entering the Great
Lakes? I don't think so. I question: "What is being done to
prevent the carp from entering at the hundreds of 'not so
navigable locations' of Lake Superior, Michigan, Huron, or
Erie?" or "What's to prevent the Asian carp from swimming
across hard barriers in times of flooding? Or up the Ohio to the
Allegheny and into the Great Lakes?"
Fact is: there are hundreds (if not thousands) of ways Asian
carp can enter the Great Lakes. From Duluth, MN to Albany,
NY rivers, creeks and tributaries from the Great Lakes
(Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario) touch eight
states - Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, and New York. Add to that, the 338 miles on the
Erie Canal, and we have a total USA shoreline distance of more
then 10,000 miles. A distance that would require a "hard
barrier" comparable to the Great Wall of China. Still, even with
that, we all learned by the 5th Grade, that birds can (and do)
transport fish from one location to another.
Take the Wisconsin Portage Canal for example: This "little
known, mostly forgotten" canal connects the Fox River with the
Wisconsin River at the City of Portage. The Fox-Wisconsin
Waterway, also connected the Great Lakes to the Gulf of
Mexico. Constructed between 1849 and 1876, it promised to
make the Fox-Wisconsin corridor the greatest water highway
through the middle United States. Today, it is little known and
mostly forgotten - but it still exists.
The Army Corps of Engineers declared this canal complete in
1876. Upon completion, the canal was 75 feet wide, 7 feet
deep, 2.5 miles long with a draw of 6 feet.
Later, the declining use forced the closure of the Wisconsin
River Locks. But in 1981, the Portage Canal Society and City of
Portage began to revive the canal. The south bank of the canal
is now part of the National Ice Age Trail, and in 2006, a
significant renovation was underway which included dredging
and cleaning up the canal. Today, only the Wisconsin Lock
prevents Asian carp from entering Lake Superior and when the
waterway reaches flood stage, the carp can swim over the Lock
While the merits of the hard closing are debated (and
debatable) by many, one thing is certain - waterfront property is
so expensive in Chicago that many of the 10,000 boaters with
boats too large to trailer, are going to be upset. So too, will
many commercial vessel owners and businesses that depend
on this passage to make their living. Last, but certainly not least
in the "financial and economic" impact of this closing, is the
money we "Loopers" spend all the way around our 5,400 (plus)
mile adventure on America's Great Loop.
On the other-hand is the Asian carp threat of destruction to
the annual $7 billion Great Lakes Fishing Industry. This of
course, together with environmental activists and
conservationists is the driving force behind the nails in the
Great Loop's coffin.
One solution however, does not debate the closure of the
waterway itself, but ensures an alternative Asian carp, (fish
proof) passage for vessels in the form of a dry "Marine Railway
or Lift Lock" which can provide a safe means of vessel passage
over a hard lock closing and prevent that transfer of fish. These
systems are not only in place in waterways around the world,
they have a proven method with a proven history, that works!
|"Just in case you
haven't heard. . . "
Congress granted Illinois a strip of land for a canal in 1822,
but raising the capital to pay for construction proved so
difficult that work did not begin until 1836.
Some of the first immigrants to the Chicago area were
Irish and German workers who came to take jobs digging the
96-mile waterway, which ran from the Chicago River to
LaSalle, the head of navigation on the Illinois River at the
time. Many of the Irish settled along the Chicago River south
of the city in a community that was called Hardscrabble at
first but came to be known as Bridgeport.
In addition to locks and stone-lined sides, the canal was
designed with towpaths for mules, but, like the canal itself,
the paths were practically past their time when the canal
opened. Some boats were towed by mules in the early days,
but steam-powered canal boats were common by 1848.
|As early as the 1670s, French explorers had proposed a
canal to connect the Great Lakes and Mississippi River
waterways, but it was not until 1810 that the United States
took up the idea as a way to develop the vast interior of the
|The Illinois - Michigan Canal
that links the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River
Has a history that is older then the United States
The "forgotten" Wisconsin Portage Canal:
Bet a lot of Loopers didn't know this ever existed. The
Fox-Wisconsin Waterway, also connected the Great Lakes
to the Gulf of Mexico. It was named after the 2.5 mile
portage between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, and provided
a 75 feet wide, 7 feet deep canal.
|circa 1840 (photo provided by Illinois Historical Society)
|It's true, the Chicago water route from Lake Michigan and the
Great Lakes to the Illinois and Mississippi River Basin is under
threat of being "hard" closed to prevent the encroachment of
Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. It seems the "electric
fish barrier" has not convinced enough people that it is working.
|Today: According to the The American Waterways
Operators - more then 17 million tons of cargo are
shipped through these locks each year, adding an
estimated $1.5 billion to the regional economy.
In addition: an estimated 600 "Loopers" together with
another 10,000 recreational vessels pass through
these locks each boating season.
|State Officials can cite all kinds of economic, health and
flooding concerns in their briefs for both opposing and
agreeing with the case of closing the locks. It just depends
on who they are speaking to.
Fact is however: No one is looking at a long-term sure fire
solution for everyone concerned when there is one.
But the Federal Government says they do agree with that
the Asian carp threat is real, much less imminent.
Scientists on the other-hand are screaming about Asian carp
DNA being detected at the entranceway to Lake Michigan,
and in fact are seriously searching to find the DNA already in
It seems to be much like "Global Warming" (try to prove that
to all those shoveling ice and snow this past May. lol) If so,
where? If not when?
Asian carp jump out of the Illinois River. Michigan has asked the
U.S. Supreme Court to "hard close" the locks near Chicago to
keep the invasive species from invading the Great Lakes. Capt
John is fighting to ensure a safe (carp proof) method for vessel
passage is made apart of the solution, claiming loss of over
1,000 jobs and $2 Billion in local economy will result in this
Closing the locks could cost hundreds, if not thousands of
jobs — including the 125 at Illinois Marine Towing Service
"Without this river system being open and without the locks,
our company would cease to exist because we wouldn't have
anything to move if these barges couldn't travel in and out of
Chicago," said it's owner.
|No! We are not speaking of Moses here. . . But we are
speaking of dividing the waters.
It is a bulging bureaucratic bungling case over the "hard
lock" hydro-logic separation of the Great Lakes and
Mississippi River Basin. Or is it? You can be the judge.
|Chicago, Chicago. . . Will the Great Loop stop here?
Capt John pleads for a safe method of
recreational passage to remain open as a vital
part of the Asian carp solution.
|John Wright, known as Capt John to most Great
Loopers, was at the recent Great Lakes Council of
Governors meeting on Mackinac Island. His goal
was protecting the Great Loop, a popular 5,600
mile navigable waterway around the eastern
portion of the north America from being closed. A
pending likelihood in the wake of closing the
waterway preventing Asian carp from reaching the
His goal? Keeping America's Great Loop a viable
passage for future boaters. Armed with a proven
solution that would allow safe passage of vessels
(and not Asian carp) between the Great Lakes and
the Mississippi Basin .
The Great Loop is a popular 5,600 mile navigable
waterway around the eastern portion of the north
America. A voyage of which Capt John has an
Internet site for the purposes of informing boaters
all about. His site has a 20 year history on the
Internet with over 4 million visitors. His stand for
the assurance of a safe alternate route was
enough to draw a surprising applause from those
"I hope you're clapping when Congress comes to
invest the money," Quinn interrupted. "As this will
require it to be a national project."
Then, it was "Governor" Mike Pence who said his
State sided with Capt. John in opposing a hard
closure and separation, agreeing that a safe
alternative passage for vessels should be made
part of the solution.
Gov. Pence later told reporters his position
against such closure had not changed. It would
"cost thousands of Hoosier jobs and cause
additional harm to many Hoosiers," Pence said,
admitting such a solution as a "ship lift or marine
railway" would be very important.
"It's important that we deal with this issue but it's
also important that we deal with it in a way
preserves the logistical advantages and
opportunity to move commerce through our region."
Asian carp were imported in the 1970s to cleanse
Deep South aquaculture and sewage treatment
ponds. Some escaped during floods and have
migrated northward in the Mississippi River and its
tributaries. They have advanced to within 55 miles
of Lake Michigan in the Illinois River, which
connects with a shipping canal and other waters
that reach Lake Michigan.
The Great Lakes region has been sharply divided
over how to deal with the threat. Michigan went to
court in an unsuccessful effort to force closure of
Chicago-area shipping locks, then joined four
other states — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and
Pennsylvania — in a lawsuit against the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers and Chicago's water district,
claiming their refusal to physically separate the
watersheds was creating a public nuisance. A
federal judge tossed out the case in December.
Indiana and Illinois have contended that separation
would boost flood risks and disrupt water tourism
and commercial shipping in the busy metro area.
They say the electric barrier in the shipping canal is
keeping the carp at bay. But scientists have
detected Asian carp DNA in dozens of water
samples collected farther upstream, some just a
few miles from Lake Michigan.
Quinn told reporters that any separation project
would have to address economic and safety
We were very intrigued by Capt John's proposed
alternatives for placing dam-like structures in the
Chicago waterway and still allowing the passage
of vessels. A Marine Lift System similar to ones
currently used in Germany was presented by Capt
John to the Great Lakes Commission in 2011. The
commission later estimated the price tag could be
a $1 billion.
"I personally favor rigorous study of what the costs
are and what has to be done in order to carry it out,"
said Quinn, a Democrat. "There's no question it
would be a very expensive endeavor. But if it's
necessary to have clean water in the Great Lakes
in the 21st century, it's worth looking at."
Dear Future Looper,
I believe there will be a satisfactory
solution that will allow continued passage for
both commercial and recreational boats from
the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River.
Thanks in great part to now Vice President
Mike Pence, former Governor of Indiana.
As of Jan. 2017, there is no decision at this
time, and in all likelihood it may be a two,
three, four, or more years before there is one.
However, if you have plans for cruising the
Loop, it makes for a good reason to do it as
soon as possible.
Of course, we will keep everyone informed
via our Newsletter.
- Capt. John