The trail traverses lovely forest with occasional glimpses of both the old canal (on the left here) and the new, larger canal. One trailhead parking lot is just south of the Willow Springs Road bridge over the Sanitary and Ship Canal and another is in the forest preserve about 2.5 miles south of there.
This is the namesake Illinois and Michigan Canal, constructed in 1843 to permit cargo ships access from Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico. Explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet traveled the Illinois River to Des Plaines River but then had to portage to the Chicago River, an area now called the Chicago portage, near where the I & M Canal was dug.
The much-used Sanitary and Ship Canal parallels the old I & M Canal, and the I&M Bike Trail runs between the two canals, along the trees to the right of this photo. The Centennial Trail runs on the left side of the S & S Canal, west of the industrial area.