Late Afternoon at the Dwight Windmill

Late Afternoon at the Dwight Windmill

No trip down Route 66 would be complete without a stop at the Dwight Windmill, in the small town of Dwight, Illinois.  Not really a purist Route 66 stop, but we take the half mile or so detour to visit each time we pass.

Built in 1896 as the source of water for the Oughton Estate, the windmill was constructed by U.S. Wind, Engine, and Pump Company of Batavia, Illinois. It originally housed an 88 barrel tank near the top which held the water pumped from a depth of 840 feet below ground.

The windmill is in beautiful condition, owned by the Village of Dwight, and is open to the public.

Bend in the Mighty Mississippi

Bend in the Mighty Mississippi Following a rainy drive from central Illinois, we arrived at the Mississippi Palisades State Park in rather nice weather. Thunderstorms surrounded us, but never rained on us the rest of the day. The sky is a bit threatening in the distance, southeast of Savanna, Illinois - the self proclaimed "Sportsman's Paradise" on the Mississippi River. I do imagine if you're a fisherman, this is a place you'll enjoy; so many secluded inlets on the river, it would take years to explore them all. The first time we visited the Mississippi Palisades, we parked near a trail head, and hiked the trail to the observation deck, about 1/2 mile through thick, hilly forest, only to realize we could have driven to the deck and only walked 100 feet! I'd rather hike while I'm still able, but knowing about the other parking area sure makes things easy. We've taken a few of the other trails as well, and they get pretty dense - so much so that we couldn't tell if we were still on the trail or on an animal trail. Great for exploration, but watch out for ticks and mosquitoes. While the views in this park seem limited to the wooded banks of the Mississippi, and the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe railroad tracks, it's certainly a beautiful view, and worth taking in. Going to have to make this trip in the winter, when the river is frozen, and the woods are snow covered.

Storm Cell

Storm Cell

On our return trip from the Mississippi River, we noticed a storm cell forming to the north of us. It quickly developed into an interesting formation, and began dumping rain on the Illinois countryside. This cell seemed very localized, even though storms surrounded us the whole day, but it only rained on us as we drove to our second stop. Closer to home, we encountered a much larger and more intense storm, with cloud to ground lightning every few seconds, and heavy rain. Too bad it was night, and we were driving, otherwise we could have set up for some excellent lightning images.


Dark Waters As kintzele Ditch flows through the wooded areas of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, it picks up tannins from the vegetation, turning the water a deep, tea color. This is sometimes known as Blackwater. On this day, the waters provided a strong contrast to the surrounding sand dunes - especially in the bright sunlight. A favorite destination of ours, Kintzele Ditch is a short walk from Central Beach and Mt. Baldy (now closed due to last year's sinkholes). The stream is ever changing, due to the wind, and waves of Lake Michigan; sometimes the mouth of the stream changes by hundreds of feet. On days when Lake Michigan is calm, the lack of waves allows the stream to empty easily into the lake, and the tannin rich water is evident along the shore until it mixes with Lake Michigan.

Chicago Harbor Light

Chicago Harbor Light Built in 1893, the Chicago Harbor Light marks the entrance to the Chicago River - a waterway once vital to the Midwest. Today, the river supports mainly pleasure boaters and tours, and it's difficult to imagine industry and shipping filling the lake and river. In 1871, an attempt was made to reverse the flow of the Chicago River, so the city's sewage and waste would not flow into Lake Michigan - Chicago's source of drinking water. The reversal was made permanent when a series of locks and dams were constructed in 1900 along with the Sanitary and Ship Canal system. Today, a single lock stands between Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, just south of Navy Pier. If you're on the river, in the lock, you can watch the gates open slowly, and the water from Lake Michigan pour into the lock to equalize the river and lake levels. Once the gates fully open, the Chicago Harbor Light comes into view. The lighthouse was automated in 1979, has a third order Fresnel lens, and is constructed of concrete and cast iron.

Rain on its Way

Rain on its Way Our voyage down the Chicago River was calm and relaxing. Aware of the threat of rain later in the day, we headed out on Lake Michigan. Once in open water, we felt the three foot waves created by the storm system a few miles west of the city. On our return trip to the river, the sky grew dark, the winds picked up, and we knew the rains were on their way. Just a few minutes after this photo, the Willis tower (I still call it the Sears Tower) disappeared - obscured by heavy rain. I told the kids I was reponsible for to come with me to the lower deck, to prepare to head inside. Moments later, the shoreline was engulfed in rain, and impossible to see; we headed below to the bar area. Seconds later, the rains hit, and all of the passengers raced to get inside - not sure why they didn't head in earlier. The bar area was packed with kids, all trying to stay dry. The winds gusted, the rain pelted the glass, and the waves crashed onto the deck and tossed the boat around a bit. Nothing huge, but each time the boat rocked, the kids screamed -not necessarily in terror, but as if they were riding a roller coaster. Some children commented that this is what it must be like aboard one of the fishing boats on Deadliest Catch (only if we were awake for 4 days, it was 70 degrees colder, had more wind, and the waves were ten times as high). The calm and prepared crew asked the children to stop screaming and to sit down on the deck so they wouldn't fall when the boat rocked. About 10 minutes later, we arrived at the Chicago River lock and the waters instantly calmed, and so did the storm. Our return to the dock was pleasant, and dry. So many of the children commented that this was the best field trip ever! A ride on a boat with a tour Chicago, and a storm at the end that tossed the boat around Lake Michigan - a great story to tell indeed.