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When explorer Louis Joliet glided down the Illinois River to its junction with the Fox, he likely did not imagine the bustling city that would spring up along the banks of the rivers. The winding commercial waterway that was to create Ottawa – The Illinois and Michigan Canal – was but a glimmer in his eye then, a vision to ease the treacherous water passage. Like Joliet, the construction workers and canallers who made the canal possible have drifted into the mists of time, but their legacy has been adapted and has flourished. The Canal State Trail remains one of the premier recreational opportunities in Northern Illinois.

Nor could Joliet envision the hardworking visionaries who would inhabit this City on the Rivers. From here, a big-game hunter/newspaper publisher by the name of W.D. Boyce would launch an outstanding youth movement known as Boy Scouts. An immigrant farmer named William Reddick -- who as a youth stole hours alongside the blast-furnace to study -- would build an elegant mansion where he would host a U.S. senator, Stephen Douglas. Sen. Douglas would engage in a fiery war of words, a career-breaking debate, against a tall, gaunt political newcomer named Abraham Lincoln in Washington Square. You can stroll along the star-shaped pathways of that square where now flowers bloom, a fountain flows and the two famous debaters are immortalized in bronze.

Self-guided tours help you to map out your journey through Ottawa's heritage and provide you with fascinating glimpses into how Ottawa grew and who made Ottawa great.

Your cell phone becomes your time-travel machine on the Brush with History Cell Phone Tour of seven murals. As you study the vivid outdoor murals, you can listen to the strike of pickax on stone as men struggle to build the canal. Hear the thundering hooves of a buffalo stampede or the throb of percussion as the band strikes up a parade through downtown Ottawa.

The Ottawa Heritage Tour is a must-have companion for your journey through Ottawa, whether you choose to take it by foot or by car. In the pages of the Heritage Tour, you'll meet the people who put Ottawa's name on the map and be able to explore the imposing architecture that defines our skyline and residential neighborhoods.

Radium Girl Memorial Plaza dedicated on September 2, 2011 was unveiled in honor of the young women who worked for The Radium Dial Company which opened in Ottawa during 1910.  Working with deadly radium while painting clock faces and later WW2 aviation instrument panels, many suffered from cancer and eventually death.  A landmark court decision in favor of the worker was the first of its kind.  She holds the tools of her trade in one hand and a tulip to represent hope in the other.  Designed by artist William Pillar of Mendota, Illinois the memorial stands at the corner of Jefferson & Clinton Streets at one of the companies historic locations.

But you're not finished yet! Ottawa's secrets are never buried, just stored in the research library operated by the La Salle County Genealogy Guild. This spacious library houses birth and death records, family and village histories, and more! Volunteers are on hand with answers to questions and directions for sorting through all the material available.

Ottawa has many stories to tell. Come enjoy them all!


There are currently 21 Attraction listing(s) available.

For a complete listing of what's going on in Ottawa check our Calendar of Events page!

Art Sculptures in Allen Park
400 Courtney St | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | |
Towering forty feet above the Illinois River and weighing an astonishing seventeen tons each, these two massive steel sculptures are now registered with the Smithsonian Art Inventories Catalog and can be found in Ottawa's own picturesque Allen Park. Created by native artisit, Mary Meinz-Fanning, these historical art structures are fashioned from parts of Ottawa's old Hilliard Bridge, originally built in 1933. The yellow sculpture is named "Reclining" and the red one is known as "Bending". It was Fanning's vision that both sculptures serve as a commeration to the old bridge. Come marvel at their unique construction as you stroll along the river....Visit Website
Dayton Bluffs
Route 71 West & Interstate 80 | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | |
Its a have-to-be-there-to-feel-it kind of place. The thrill of true wildness. The comfort of age, unhurried growth, deep roots. The mystery of what you will find at the leafy bottom of the next ravine. A place where the voices of Native Americans who walked this land long before you blend with the voices of today and tomorrow in a chorus of awe and admiration. Dayton Bluffs is part of Starved Rock County, Ottawa Visitors Center, and is supported by Heritage Harbor Resort. Explore this beautiful area just a short drive from the suburbs. For more information and to pursue your land preservation options, please contact our Director of Land Protection, Dan Lobbes 630-428-4500, Ext. 25. ...Visit Website
Fox River Aqueduct
This early engineering marvel carried waters of the Illinois & Michigan Canal over the Fox River. The Fox River Aqueduct is the largest aqueduct along the I&M Canal Corridor. Built in the 1840s by David Sanger & Sons Construction Co. of Ottawa, the aqueduct spans a length of 464 feet. Supported by seven towering piers constructed of Joliet limestone, the aqueduct was once considered the eighth wonder of the world.
Heritage Tour - An Illustrated Guide
Pick up a copy of this illustrated guide to "the places, faces and ornamentation of Ottawa" and get ready for a magical history tour! Learn about the people who made Ottawa great and who built Ottawa's breathtaking and imposing skyline.
Historic Auto Tour
100 W. Lafayette St | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | 1-888-OTTAWA-4 |
Discover the historic treasures that Ottawa has at your own leisure and in the comfort of you own automobile. This tour includes Ottawa's original town square, the many stunning homes, interesting architecture and breath-talking nature scenery. Click on the link provided to download your copy of the tour or you can go to our down loads page....Visit Website
I & M Canal Tollhouse
Columbus Street at the I & M Canal | Ottawa, , | |
This small, one-room structure served as a tollhouse for the many barges filled with grain, coal, stone, and lumber, and is the only original tollhouse that still exists on the canal. It was part of a complex that once included a "turning bridge" over the canal, a maintenance shed, privy and well.
Illinois & Michigan Canal
This multi-purpose trail offers visitors scenic hiking and bicycling, combined with the opportunity to experience Ottawa's natural beauty. Walk or bike the tow path, where horses pulled passenger boats from 1848 until 1852 and mules pulled the heavy freight required to build Chicago and northern Illinois.
Illinois River Road
Route 71 | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | 1-888-OTTAWA-4 for Ottawa Area OR 815-434-2737 for Ottawa Area |
Now the journey is part of the destination . . . While driving the Illinois River Road, you'll be immersed in the rich cultural and archaeological history of Native Americans, French explorers, American settlers, and immigrants who were drawn here by the river valley's abundant natural resources and who built their lives and communities from the land and river. Ottawa is the first of the seven gateways offering spectactular river bluff views, wildlife, history, and many outdoor recreational adventures! Shop our unique boutiques, dine at our locally owned restaurants and experience our history!...Visit Website
Illinois River Road Geocaching in Ottawa
Throughout Ottawa, and other River Road Communities | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | 1-888-OTTAWA-4 OR 815-434-2737 |
Ottawa, Illinois is proud to be a participant of the Illinois River Road Geocaching! Geocaching (geo-cashing) is a great outdoor recreational activity that's similar to a scavenger hunt. You search for a hidden object using clues and GPS (global positioning system) coordinates. It's incredibly fun, and becoming more and more popular every day. Ottawa is one of the six Gateway communities along the Illinois River Road, including the portal communities of Marseilles and Streator. Visit for more details about this great adventure or pick up a log book and guide at the Ottawa Visitors Center....Visit Website
Illinois Waterway Visitor Center
950 North 27th Road, (Dee Bennett Rd) | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | 815-667-4054 |
Ever want to see the operation of a lock and dam? Come to Illinois Waterway Visitor Center! Watch impressive towboats of mammoth proportions navigating through the Starved Rock Lock. Plus, view our displays to learn about the modern lock and dam system as well as the historic I & M Canal. Call to inquire about our eagle watching season, history, and educational programs. We offer state approved boating classes free to the public, plus boat safety checks!...Visit Website
LaSalle County Genealogy Guild
115 West Glover Street | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | 815-433-5261 |
The guild has a membership of 1,000 worldwide. People come from all parts of the globe to study their genealogy in the guild's library....Visit Website
Mural Cellular Phone Tour
Ottawa's Old Town District | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | 815-434-3357 |
Let your cell phone be your guide through town as you explore part of Ottawa's rich heritage with these beautiful murals by calling 815-434-3357 or stop in the Ottawa Visitors Center and pick up your copy of A Brush With History mural tour booklet and truly browse these wonderful murals at your own leisure. Mural booklets available for download on the Downloads section of you website...Visit Website
Off The Bench (Indoor Sporting Facility)
711 1/2 West Joliet St, (1 block west of Paramount Skating Rink) | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | 815-992-9154 OR 815-992-9153 |
Looking for a family fun, weatherproof attraction? Check out Ottawa's newest MULTI-SPORT INDOOR TRAINING FACILITY! Strengthen your athletic skills in our complete, up-to-date, spacious facility! Softball, baseball, soccer, volleyball, football and more! Offering a large venue for birthday parties, clinics, special events, or just a place to have a good time! Individual and Group Hourly passes available as well as Monthly, Quaterly, Bi-Annual and Annual. Introducing Darsi Callaway's SWEATSHOP featuring spin, fitness, resistance training classes plus Insane Bootcamp and 5K Group Running Classes AND Don Beebe's HOUSE OF SPEED. Hours of operation: Monday - Thursday 3pm - 9pm, Friday 3pm - 6pm, Saturday through Sunday 9am - 8pm. Call for prices. ...Visit Website
Ottawa Historical & Scouting Heritage Museum
1100 Canal Street | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | 815-431-9353 |
Promoting and preserving the traditions of scouting, this museum features many scouting items as well as three year-round outdoor hikingtrails. And beginning June 11, 2011, the Scouting museum will present it's newest permanent exhibit, "Lord Robert Baden - Powell Memorabilia". This exhibit relates to the military and scouting career of Baden - Powell. It features many one of a kind items that can only be viewed here at the Scouting Museum! Graciously donated by Ken Kittelberger from Columbia, Maryland. ...Visit Website
Ottawa's Old Town Farmers Market
South Side of Washington Square Park, Jackson Street (between Lasalle and Combus Streets | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | |
Come to Ottawa's Old Town Farmers Market to purchase freshly picked, homegrown vegetables! Also featured are homebaked goods, jams and jellies, dog treats, and a few craft items. With a motto of we BAKE it, we GROW it, we SELL it FRESH, your sure to find something FANTASTIC!!! Open Saturdays:
Rail-Splitter Replica Canal Boat
South Bank of I & M Canal, Between Columbus and LaSalle Streets | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | |
Located not far from the original Tollhouse, this replica canal boat christened as the "Rail-Splitter", can be viewed along the south bank of the I & M Canal. Orginally built as a movie prop for the 2002 production of "Prairie Tides", this boat is a full size model of a 19th century canal boat. She is crafted from wood and is 60 feet long by 12 feet wide, and would be considered a smaller version back in her day. The name "Rail-Splitter" was chosen from a list of canal boats formerly registered to Ottawa, Illinois. Her presence is a reminder of the historical and commercial influence that the I & M Canal had in the shaping of this region. (This replica boat is designed for viewing purposes only.)
Reddick Mansion
100 W Lafayette St | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | (815) 433-6100 |
Built before the Civil War, this ornate 22 room 50 foot tall Italianate mansion was constructed by leading philanthropist and state senator William Reddick. The mansion is open for tours. Please call for available times. Don't forget to visit our gift shop, "Elizabeth's Corner"....Visit Website
100 W. Lafayette St | Ottawa, IL, | 1-888-OTTAWA-4 |
Take a leisurely stroll or bike ride along the Fox and Illinois Rivers on Ottawa's beautiful Riverwalk. You'll enjoy beautiful river and scenic views as the Riverwalk winds along the rivers and through some of Ottawa's public parks and boat launches. Don't forget to bring your disc golf or fishing gear, the Riverwalk passes by Ottawa's Disc Golf course and many different fishing spots.
Shopping and Dinning in Ottawa
With over 50 different Shopping and Dinning options, you are sure to find that unique one-of-a-kind gift to take home and the perfect café for lunch that you'll be talking about for years to come. Check out our shopping and dinning pages for more information.
The Ottawa Lincoln Knew tour
100 W. Lafayette St | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | 1-888-OTTAWA-4 |
Most people associate Lincoln to Ottawa only with his historic debate with Douglas in 1858, however Lincoln had many friends and supporters in Ottawa that made him a frequent visitor. Travel back in time and see Ottawa as he did with this self guided tour! ...Visit Website
W.D. Boyce and Boy Scout Memorial
Ottawa Ave Cemetery | Ottawa, IL, 61350 | 1-888-OTTAWA-4 (Ottawa Visitors Center) OR 815-431-9353 (Ottawa Scouting Museum) |
Boy Scouts across America owe their existence to Ottawa resident William D. Boyce and a fateful encounter one foggy evening in 1909 London that inspired him to found the Scout organization. The Boyce family gravesite is watched over by a life-sized bronze statue of a uniformed Boy Scout which was unveiled in 1941. It was paid for through contributions made by the Scouts themselves. Thousands of Boy Scouts make annual pilgrimages to the Boyce gravesite to pay their respects to the founder each year. A museum dedicated to W.D. Boyce and the Scouting movement (including Girl Scouts and Camp Fire) is located at 1100 Canal Street, Ottawa.


Ottawa Visitors Center • 100 West Lafayette Street • Ottawa • IL • 61350 • Phone: 1-888-OTTAWA-4 • E-mail:

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