My son and I paddled from the Mckinley Woods Park put-in west to Aux Sable Aquaduct and tollhouse, aprox. 6.5 miles one way. The canal has an avg. static depth of 3-4 ft., but typically the depth was less than 2 feet. As there is no "real" current, the water was fairly clear for a canal; muddy but clean.
We initially encountered a large strainer (fallen tree) as we started west toward Aux Sable. It was passable on river left, but my son being the adventurer, decided to go thru it, which we did; even with our 14 ft. canoe. There was the occasional strainer and sand bar, but all was passable and we did not have to walk or portage.
There is no 'real' access except at the designated put-in's, there are occasional pseudo access places along the bike path, other than those, I wouldn't recommend getting out of the canoe, the mud in the canal is 'very' deep.
The other 'offical' put-in on this leg of the canal is at McLinden Rd. Park, it's a nice rest stop aprox. halfway to Aux Sable. The trip provided excellant scenery with ample wild life (i.e. mud carp, beaver, herons, mallards, etc.). There was a bit of a head wind going west, it was not noticable until we started back from Aux Sable, even so the paddling was easy.
One thing about the canal, on the 'quiet water', if you stop paddling ... you stop!! The aquaduct and old locks at Aux Sable are very interesting and a great place for lunch. For those who aren't aware of what an 'aquaduct' is, when they built the canal in the late 1800's they had to cross rivers, streams & roads; they did this by constructing a water bridge or 'aquaduct' over the obstacle. These are very intersting as you don't even realize that you are on them until you pass through. There are very few 'working' aquaducts on the canal, as they were orignally constructed of wood and have decayed & fallen, Aux Sable is one of the few re-constructed aquaduts on the canal.
It was a nice trip, great for fishing, we are soon to explore the other parts of the I&M Canal at our next chance.
Mckinley Wood Park: camping, latrines, picnic facilities
McLinden Road Park: latrines
I-55 to US Rt.6 to Mckinley Woods Rd., west of Channahon, IL