My brother and I left Duluth, MN on 17 Sep 2020 traveling the Great Loop on my Grand Banks 32 woodie... in addition I am quite new with this boat and am learning as I go in this journey. Along the way I have had many issues crop up making each and every day a new experience, many of which involve which marina to spend the night or a couple of days.
In my experience, you find boaters are extremely helpful to one another and the marinas on the Illinois River system we are stopping at are staying open late this year as not only has Covid hurt them but the locks were closed from Jul thru the end of Oct.
I have river experience having lived on a Chris-Craft 50 for 5 years south of St. Paul, MN - but this adventure is very different than putzing up and down the upper Mississippi where the tow boats are considered children's toys (compared to those starting in St. Louis). Having read about everything I could on what to expect, for the grace of God, we met Mick - a Scotsman who is on his 5th Loop.
Mick has become my mentor, one I am following until we go our separate ways at Paducah, KY.
At any rate, Mick told me we would be stopping at Heritage Harbor Marina in Ottawa, IL - he told me we would be meeting Jeremy Fowler, the HarborMaster. Jeremy is one of the most knowledgable people I have met on this journey... especially regarding the river system and what to expect.
Jeremy provides a free seminar for those heading south - such as us Loopers. He explains what to do when approaching everything from the locks and tows to where to find anchorages and safety zones when approaching a dangerous bend in the river.
If you ever have a problem on your journey south you can pick up the phone and give Jeremy a call... odds are he has traveled the area and is abreast of current situations.
Beyond Jeremy the Heritage Harbor Marina has every amenity you could want from a great restaurant to courtesy cars. The Team absolutely bend over backwards to make your trip safe and enjoyable... it is "the" place to stop in my opinion.
That said if 5X Mick hadn't told me about Heritage Harbor I may have missed it... I can say thank you a hundred times as it was one of our best stops in the past 1450 miles. I highly recommend you spend some time at Heritage Harbor Marina... Jeremy's seminar is alone worth the price.