Before exploring the wonders of the Hennepin Canal trail, stop in at the Visitor Center near Sheffield. The visitor center has a small museum to highlight the wildlife on the canal as well as the great history behind the building of the waterway. Several displays help illustrate the canal's past, including tools used during its initial construction. At the time the canal was built, workers often made their own tools by hand. There's also a model of a lock with a boat going through it, and a model of an aqueduct.
You can also get a peek of the plant and animal life at the park from the numerous specimens on display at the visitor center. From red-tailed hawks, osprey, beaver, otter, badgers, squirrels, and even fish - meet nature indoors before heading outside. Hop on the trail right outside the center and take a 5-minute walk to the west where you can find Bridge 15, an original iron truss, wooden timber bridge that crosses the canal.
The Visitor Center is located right along the towpath and you can see the canal from inside the center. Just outside the center is a dock and a small lagoon that bypasses the canal and is used for Illinois' Catachable Trout Program. In the main complex area, as you walk up to the visitor center, there is a large covered shelter with picnic tables where you can stop for lunch. A playground and outdoor privies are adjacent to the shelter.
The Visitor Center is the main park office and is open Monday - Friday, 7:30-3:30 year-round unless otherwise posted on our Facebook page. Phone: 815-454-2328 Email: DNR.HennepinCanal@illinois.gov