By Don Mueggenborg
If you like to paddle narrow, winding rivers – the Nippersink might be just what you want. If you like to paddle an hour or two without seeing houses, farms, or people – the Nippersink. Add to that glacier remnants called Kames that rise as small hills for a different kind of scenery – the Nippersink.
Over one hundred ago, the land the creek ran through was farmed. By taking the bends out of the creek, it was easier to farm, so they straightened the creek. Then the Kames were in the way of a proposed highway, so there was a proposal to cut them down.
Enter the McHenry Conservation District. They acquired the land for a park. To draw people’s attention to the beauty of the area, they started the Trail of History – a historical re-enactment. (As a re-enactor, it was a beautiful sight to behold, and the re-enactment was the most educational that I have attended, with many different displays.)
From an aerial photograph, the original creekbed could be seen, so the Conservation District has re-routed the creek to its original course – adding many bends and at least a half hour to the trip.
The trip begins at Keystone landing, just southwest of Rts 31 and 12 in McHenry County. The water is usually on the low side, especially since the creek was re-routed. This requires some river reading. (Expect to hit bottom once or twice with your paddle or even with your boat). Bends are somewhat tricky since the river has not yet carved out a clear channel.
And you see the Kames from all angles.
Boulders have been placed in the river to make it more natural. In time, they will be moved by current and probably make the passage easier.
All of this makes for a scenic paddle and sometimes a technical paddle – certainly a paddle in solitude. A chance to appreciate nature.
Pioneer Park is the destination – a couple to three hours paddle. You can continue on with more farmland and fewer bends to Spring Grove and to the Nippersink Canoe Base on route 12. Each stretch is a couple hours of quiet paddling away from the hustle bustle of the city. (Beyond the Nippersink Canoe Base, the creek is channelized down to the Fox River, where one encounters power boats – and the quiet is forgotten. I suggest stopping at the canoe base.)