Illinois Waterway Visitor Center

Illinois Waterway Visitor Center, Ottawa: Hours, Address, Illinois Waterway Visitor Center Reviews: 4.5/5

Illinois Waterway Visitor Center

Illinois Waterway Visitor Center
4.5
Visitor Centers
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9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Monday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Tuesday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
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About
Guests visiting the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center are required to wear masks while indoors as long as LaSalle County, Illinois remains in the high COVID-19 Community Levels category. Outside viewing areas remain open with no mask requirement. A relaxing place to watch towboats and barges lock through. From the visitor center outdoor observation area, guests can watch bald eagles and mergansers in the winter and pelicans, great blue heron, cormorants and many other birds in the spring, summer, and fall. This site is the only visitor center devoted to telling the stories of the Illinois Waterway and its importance to transportation. Group on-site programs, outreach programs and boat safety classes available. Free boat inspections also available.
Suggested duration
1-2 hours
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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
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4.5
98 reviews
Excellent
54
Very good
35
Average
6
Poor
2
Terrible
1

Timothy H
Naperville, IL6 contributions
Friends
What an absolutely awesome place. I went there with a friend on Sunday afternoon, April 24, 2022. The curator of the establishment was incredibly knowledgeable, very friendly, and very responsive to our near endless questions. I can’t tell you how much we thoroughly enjoyed the visit and really learned a great deal about Illinois waterway system. Utterly fascinating. I would highly recommend taking the time to visit this location, directly across the river from Starved Rock State Park. You will not be disappointed as it is a really cool experience, family oriented and really a great way to learn about something that operates right under your nose 24/7/365 days a year and have absolutely no awareness of it. Do not miss the opportunity to visit this location if you are in the area.
Written April 25, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Hi Timothy: Wow! What a fantastic review. It really made our day. I will pass your complements on to our staff for a job well done. Thanks again,
Written July 4, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

brokerer
Portage, WI192 contributions
We ran across this after Starved Rock, one of the wardens happen to be inside , when we arrived and spent alot of time explaining the waterway system to us. There is also a small exhibit inside the building that explains alot, along with a replica wheelhouse. Check it out !!!
Written March 5, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thank you for the great review! We get a lot of 'just happened by" visitors and we appreciate them.
Written March 16, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Kita
Kenosha, WI78 contributions
we stopped here on our way home after hiking Starved Rock and Matthiesen a few days. Interesting historical facts on the upper deck.. even though the visitor center was closed, it is worth a stop by to learn more about the river and the locks
Written May 24, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Our visitor center is now open. We would love to have you back for a visit. Thank you for coming, watching the pelicans and leaving your input on Trip Advisor.
Written May 29, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Mari M
Chicago, IL240 contributions
The Illinois Waterway Visitor Center was a stop on our Trolley Tour which I found lacking. As part of a guided excursion, I was expecting the attendant to explain the process without being goaded for information. I have no idea about barges, locks, how or why they benefit the people of Illinois, and thus didn't even know what questions to ask.
Written March 9, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Mari: I regret that your visit was less than you expected. We try to give you the information you want. I will make sure that our staff touches base with each group better. I appreciate your letting us know this failure.
Written March 16, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

ChicagoHiker2
Naperville, IL266 contributions
Couples
We had heard that in January and February, when the Illinois River is often covered with significant ice, visitors, to the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center, can often see Eagles fishing for dinner or soaring above the river, at the Starved Rock Lock and Dam. The visit in mid-January, 2018, did not disappoint!

To get to the visitors center, we traveled West on Interstate 80, until we reached the off-ramp for Utica and Starved Rock State Park. The highway at that off-ramp is called Highway 178. Traveling South on 178, we passed through the small town of Utica, and then on toward the Illinois River. Before actually crossing the bridge, leading over the Illinois River and on to Starved Rock, we turned left onto Dee Bennett Road. You will drive about a mile to the entrance to of the Illinois Waterway Visitors Center, on the right, (north side of the river). Adequate free parking is available at the visitor center.

The visitor center is a two story building which includes a small gift shop, some impressive taxidermy, of local birds of prey, (owls, hawks, etc.), and a second story viewing platform, both heated indoors and colder outdoors. The outdoor viewing deck includes two telescopes for viewing birds, (or anything on and around the river). This outer deck is also a great spot to snap pictures of local birds, and hopefully Eagles soaring around the dam and lock. The Eagles enjoying perching on trees located on Leopold and Plum Islands, easily visible from the 2nd deck area.

If you can handle the cold ... you could watch the birds soaring and fishing for an hour or so. Wear layered clothing, a warm hat, gloves, and whatever needed, because the views are great. Highly recommended.
Written January 18, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Wow! Directions are great, thank you for adding them. I am very glad you enjoyed your visit to the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center.
Written January 23, 2018
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Shanny53
Ottawa, IL33 contributions
A wonderful experience of watching barges going through the locks. It also offers a marvelous spot to view a large bald eagle population.
Written August 12, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

MELINDA W
STREATOR46 contributions
Couples
Try to go during their once a year tour where you can actually walk out on the damn. Lots of VERY interesting information! Helpful people. Fun time, especially in the winter when the bald eagles are there.
Written December 3, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

FarmerDon55
Ottawa, IL11 contributions
Couples
I live nearby and have been there many times. There is a small museum with some stuffed animals, hands on exhibits for the kids, and some history of the ILL waterway. It's free, does not take long, and worth a stop since you're only 5 minutes from Starved Rock Lodge.

In the wintertime, when the river is frozen, Eagles will gather at the dam where there is open water to catch fish. Depending on the circumstances, I've seen anywhere from 5 to 30 at one time.
Written November 3, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

DanielleMZ
Chicago, IL12 contributions
Friends
A small little museum to the history of the canal with some stuffed birds of the area and a small drawing area for kids. Outside BBQ spot and seats make it a great lunch break stop
Written May 28, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thank you for visiting, DanielleMZA. Sure glad you enjoyed your visit!
Written May 30, 2019
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Kate R
Chicago, IL47 contributions
We stopped in after spending all morning and half the afternoon staring at the dam and lock from Starved Rock. We love out of the way museums, and this one did not disappoint.

The museum had a tiny display of old boats that ran on the river, and some river safety and area/canal history info. The highlight is a two-story, indoor-outdoor observation area overlooking the lock. You can see the entire lock work, which is both fascinating and doesn't sound like it.

Not exactly a must-see, and I wish there were more explanation of the engineering of the lock system. But worth 30-45 minutes if you have time to kill in Utica, or if you are curious.
Written August 11, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Illinois Waterway Visitor Center

Illinois Waterway Visitor Center is open:
  • Sun - Sat 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM