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‘”Just Plain People” Canoe Races

By Don Mueggenborg

  • Des Plaines River Canoe/Kayak Marathon (and SUP)
  • Mid-America Canoe Race

Just plain people who like to paddle – that’s what most of us are.

(That’s how I started paddling the Des Plaines Marathon almost 50 years ago – has it really been that long? It was fun.  I was hooked.)

Sure, there are the “racers” who go so fast their wake will knock you over; they leave a cloud of steam as they pass (well, not really).  Their vocabulary is one word – “hut.”  Their canoes are ugly black.  Their kayak paddles look like windmills when they really gear up.

But most of us are just plain people, and the DES PLAINES RIVER CANOE AND KAYAK MARATHON (AND SUP’s) AND THE MID-AMERICA CANOE RACE are geared to these just plain people.

We race, not to win (well – maybe to hope to win or at least, beat someone), but to have fun.

Imagine, paddling with 1,000 other people who love the rivers as much as you do.  The camaraderie: not only on the river, but at the start line, and especially after the race.

Imagine taking the whole family out, dividing up into a couple canoes and kayaks, and then trying to beat each other (men, don’t get mad when your wife beats you – it happens).  Race against your brother –in- law or your neighbor – or with your neighbor.

Imagine setting a goal – can you race the 20 or 10 miles?  Can you beat your time from last year?  Sweat a little (or a lot) – bring fluids (non-alcohol).

Or just paddle the short course for the fun of it.

Imagine getting that fancy patch and wearing that great t-shirt.  You will strut around town showing it off.

After the race, stay and have some lunch (good food vendors) and sit around and tell “war stories.”  Talk with those “racers,” get some hints, share the day (most racers love to talk about paddling).

Go to Canoemarathon.com for the May 21st Des Plaines Marathon (Libertyville to Dam # 2, Mt Prospect; Deerfield Rd to Dam # 2 for the mini-thon).

Fox Valley Park District for the Mid-Am – first Sunday in June (St. Charles to Aurora; Batavia to Aurora – short race).

Canoe rentals available – see the website: http://www.foxvalleyparkdistrict.org/event/mid-america-canoe-kayak-race/

Try it, you’ll like it!  Check out photos from past Des Plaines Marathons (photos copyright © 2007 by Cliff Doll):

Ralph Frese and daughter

A Fabulous New Paddlesport Safety Brochure and Videos

By Sigrid Pilgrim

As a representative on the Chicago Harbor Safety Committee, I was sent the newly developed Paddlesport Safety Brochure:

http://www.canoekayak.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/WSF_Safety-Brochure-FINAL.pdf

This is excellent, short, visual and to the point. Since it is hard to print out in the format given, I tracked down the origin and suggested that perhaps it could be made available with each canoe/kayak sold. Little did I know the background and what a great surprise

Thank you JIM EMMONS, Non-Profit Outreach Grant Director, Water Sports Foundation, Inc.

A Division of WSIA.net; ACA Instructors and US Coast Guard.

The pamphlet idea was developed during a 2015 safety meeting that I organized with the USCG and the top six recreational kayak manufacturers at the Outdoor Retailer trade showing Salt Lake City, UT.  During the meeting, we got the manufacturers’ attention by sharing the raw data on deaths in America.  Prior to this meeting, the manufacturers had no idea that kayaks killed so many.  Next we asked them to help us share safety messages through their channels, both social media and marketing, like websites and newsletters.  They all unanimously agreed.  At this meeting, we discussed a safety pamphlet that could be attached to kayaks during production and shipped to dealers ready for consumers right in the retail environment.  The manufacturers all agreed to include them and in January, nearly 7 million (a three year supply) were printed by the USCG.     

I managed to get a commitment from NASBLA to help get this pamphlet shipped to nearly every state and territory — about 2 million copies. 

There have been a few articles about this project.  I’ve linked two here.

NASBLA’s Small Craft Advisory

Boating Industry

In addition to the printed pamphlet, we also produced an eight part video series called Safer Paddling, Be Smart, Be Safe, Have Fun.  The videos are all over Youtube, but you can find them on our partner’s website, Canoe & Kayak here. (The pamphlet also has a QR code directly linking to the videos). For 2017, we are producing a series of SUP videos and a pamphlet for SUP manufacturers to attach to the deck of the board.

River Stewardship Volunteers 2016 Annual Summary

By Paul Klonowski

Photo: Rob Ratz

In 2016, the Lake County Forest Preserve District’s Des Plaines River Stewardship Crew held somewhere in excess of 75 training and work days, involving 30 active regular volunteers (5 are new for 2016), and 53 “one-timers,” including people from two corporate groups, a paddlesports club, a Boy Scout’s Eagle Scout Project, and one volunteer we borrowed from McHenry County Conservation District’s Education Volunteer corps. The combined efforts resulted in the collection and removal of an estimated 6,170lbs of trash from the river and its flood plains this year, including one of our biggest single-day trash hauls ever, estimated at 1,400lbs of trash!  All told, we logged 1,382 hours of volunteer time, which is another record year for us!

Trash items of interest include: a wading pool, a large tradesman’s style truck rack, two wood duck houses, a truck bumper & body panels, a length of chain link fence, a hypodermic syringe (with no needle), an unused condom (still in its package), an Adirondack chair, the trunk lid from an old car, a live fish on an abandoned troll line (we released the fish), most of a Big Wheel Tricycle, a sign post, two empty moonshine jugs, a large road sign, a Stop sign, a 30-gallon oil tank, a broken blue sink (which matched the blue toilet taken out a few years back), a broken green toilet, a trash can (it was handy), a “lunch litter” site behind Liberty Auto City, bones from what we think was a horse, parts of a blue pickup truck, a hub cap from a De Soto automobile, a couch, the remains of a cardboard boat, an inflatable raft, a fresh bag of groceries, two pallets, more truck parts, a large picnic cooler bucket, a pile of slate shingles, an unusable wheelbarrow, a small roll of carpet, a 55-gallon trash barrel, three or four deck chairs, a 1,000-gallon fuel tank, a 12-foot section of culvert, two dead chickens, and 23 coconuts.

In addition, we collected 52 tires of various sizes, and cut through or did some maintenance trimming on 41 log jams. We also identified one old dump site that will require Operations to clean up: it contains at least 20 truck tires and several large truck parts, half-buried in the banks of Half Day Pits, in Lincolnshire.  On December 30th, we found an old dump site that we’ll clean up after the ground thaws.

We spent one of our scheduled work days at Greenbelt Forest Preserve, planting shrubs and small trees, after learning that extra help was needed for that effort.

But the crown jewel for the year was the final removal of the remains of the 1948 Chevy pickup truck, near our tool shed.   Eighteen Boy Scouts & Scouters can move a lot of heavy stuff, very quickly…

Not a bad year, I think! And 2017 is off to a grand start, with ten (10) new volunteers lined up for this year, so far!

pk

Photo: Rob Ratz
Photo: Rob Ratz

Dragon Boat Racing Returns to the South Side

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival Debuts New Location, Craft Beer Village, and More

BLUE ISLAND, ILLINOIS, February 15, 2017 — Dragon Boat racing is back in Blue Island this summer, with a new, larger venue, more events, and some great additions like craft beer, food, merchandise, and more. The 2nd Annual Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival is scheduled for June 1-3, 2017, at the MWRD Waterfall Park along the Cal-Sag. This year’s festival also includes welcome receptions at Rock Island Public House and Double Play Saloon the evenings of June 1 and 2 after team practices, and an after-party June 3 at The Blue Island Beer Company.

“Last year, we fell in love with the atmosphere surrounding the first dragon boat festival hosted here on the south side,” says festival organizer Kevin Brown. “It’s so much more than a great day on the water. It’s a celebration of sport, community, and fun, interesting people. We also loved that newcomers to the sport can compete with little training or instruction – if you can paddle, you can race in a dragon boat!”

Brown says finding a new site was necessary to expand the event, and to better accommodate festival attendees with amenities like public transit access, abundant, free parking, and multiple food and drink options.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with the MWRD, City of Blue Island administration, police and fire, the U.S. Coast Guard, Metra, and so many incredible local businesses and organizations to make this festival location a reality,” says Brown. “Paddlers and spectators will be blown away by the incredible views of the races from sites like the new Chatham Street pedestrian bridge – part of the forthcoming Cal-Sag trail connection through Blue Island – as well as the proximity to Blue Island’s beautiful historic uptown, and all that Olde Western avenue has to offer.”

Individual and team registration is underway at www.chicagodragonboats.com, as well as a description of available festival sponsorship opportunities – many of which include team entries for businesses and the community organization, school, or church of their selection.

“We’ve structured this event to highlight what we feel is the most exciting thing dragon boat racing brings to our communities,” says Brown. “Dragon boat racing is about pride, it’s about inclusivity, it’s about teambuilding and communication skills, being outside and being physical – and almost anyone can do it.”

About the 2nd Annual Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival

Date: Thursday June 1, Friday June 2, and Saturday June 3, 2017

Time: Practice Sessions: 4-8 pm Thursday and Friday, Dragon Boat Races: Saturday: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm

Location: MWRD SEPA Waterfall & Park along the Cal-Sag, Blue Island, IL

Description: The Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival caters to a variety of groups, including businesses, organizations, churches, families, competitive sports enthusiasts, and those who crave outdoor summer activity on a stunning dragon boat regatta course. Personal satisfaction, team development, and friendship are among the many benefits participants experience, and many companies, organizations, and schools have found that the social atmosphere and teambuilding aspects of dragon boat racing assist with ongoing constructive communication for their employees, members, and students.

Thursday and Friday’s activities include team practice sessions with instructors from Great White North Dragon Boat Racing (GWN), as well as a team welcome reception at Rock Island Public House. GWN also provides the dragon boats, paddles, and life jackets for participants.

Saturday’s activities include the dragon boat races, awards ceremony, craft beer village featuring the Southland’s best food and craft beer, and after party at the Blue Island Beer Company.

For more information on the 2nd Annual Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival, to register as an individual or team, or to explore sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.chicagodragonboats.com.

Contact:

Kevin & Sara Brown

Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival

219-895-0437 or kevin@chicagodragonboats.com

Thank you: Friends of the Pecatonica

For the great job you have been doing for the last decade and more to make the Pecatonica Illinois’s Friendliest Paddle and more! Please share how you accomplished all with IPC in an article for the next newsletter. We have many rivers in our state that could benefit by having a “Friends of ???? River,” so having your guidance on how you achieved your success would be wonderful.

And – for everyone reading this –  enjoy the FPRF Dec Newsletter.

Cheap Pork or Clean Rivers

By Don Mueggenborg

Spoon River

Most of us like a pork sausage with pancakes, or a slice of bacon with eggs (or almost everything). I enjoyed a pork roast at Christmas.

Since we are the Illinois Paddling Council, I can assume that most of the people reading this are paddlers.   We all enjoy a nice summer paddle on our favorite river (and almost any river I paddle is my favorite at that time).

At one time (and maybe it is still an annual event), Bob Evans invited people to paddle to his farm and enjoy his famous sausages. (Now that is a great way to enjoy both!)

If the price of pork is kept low, we may eat more. This is what the pork producers want. (Of course, their profits will grow as we eat more.)

In order to cut the cost of hog production and make more profits, the pork producers are threatening our rivers.

A three-page article in the Chicago Tribune (Dec 28, 2016) exposes the threat to our rivers.

Pork producers have been building mega-hog farms. The one mentioned in the Tribune article is for 20,000 hogs. No, I did not put in an extra zero.

Besides a lot of bacon, 20,000 hogs produce an awful lot of waste products. This is stored in concrete bunkers, eventually dried, and becomes fertilizer. In the meantime, it produces an unbearable stench.

Nearby wells and streams are threatened with pollution.

If one of the holding bunkers should rupture, be damaged in a tornado, overflow due to heavy rains, millions of gallons of toxic sludge will be set free (it has happened a few years back).

It will flow into our rivers, killing fish, and making the waters unfit to paddle on.

The closest river to the proposed mega-hog farm mentioned by the Tribune is the Spoon River, which flows west and south of Peoria into the Illinois River.

The Spoon is called by some the “Grand Canyon of Illinois” for its colorful red and yellow high clay banks. It is a river that is fun to paddle and was the site of a race I looked forward to for years. It is probably best known for the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.

ACTION TIME – the Illinois Department of Agriculture apparently has limited jurisdiction according to the article – so – IT IS TIME TO WRITE, EMAIL, CALL our state senators and representatives. Urge them to pass laws that will safeguard our rivers.

I will pay a little more for my spareribs, bacon, and sausages, to save our rivers.

 

The Fox River Deserves National Recognition

By Greg Taylor  

So, how many of you have ever paddled on a National River Water Trail? Well, there is a fair chance, if you have lived here in Illinois for a while and paddled different rivers to experience all that the Midwest has to offer. You might have!  The Rock, in north central Illinois, flowing from Wisconsin; The Kankakee, southeast of Chicago; and, part of The Ol’ Man, The Big Muddy, “The Mississippi,” down by St. Louis, are the only ones within 200 miles of Chicago. So, what is a National River Water Trail you ask? Well, if you Google it, it’s all there in color and a wealth of info I’ll leave you to have fun discovering. A quick snap shot is that a “Water Trail is a river or section that meets Federal standards for accessibility and positive human use.” I know that can be a loaded statement these days, heck almost any time in human History, but it’s getting better the more everyone realizes that we all need rivers that are for “positive human use” meaning, everyone agrees to its positive use.

Fox River Ecosystem Partnership, aka “FREP,” is currently moving forward to obtain Federal recognition for the Fox through the National Park Service, which is overseen by the Department of the Interior. The Wisconsin side has been mapped and is in the planning stages already; some of its infrastructure is already in place. Now it’s our turn. I’m assuming many of you have paddled some part of the Fox. If you haven’t, you’re missing a gorgeously calm, relaxing, and picturesque river. And it turns out an ancient river. There are dells on the lower Fox like the ones up in Wisconsin with the Ducks river tours – except you don’t have to pay, as you see them free. Only your desire and sense of adventure are needed. I’m sure there are other attributes that exist on the Fox, and that is why – and what – I am writing about and asking for here. I am the Volunteer Coordinator for ground-truthing the Illinois side of the Water Trail Certification. We are in the process of developing the tools that will be used for data submission. Currently, the options are to submit the data and observations through Google Drive, using smart phones or tablets or printing out a paper copy to submit. This is an easy one for anyone to enjoy and experience. Just enter the river, enjoy the paddle down stream, camping if there are areas that are clearly understood as camping spots, stop for lunch, site-see, whatever you find that you can enjoy or think others might find interesting. The more the better. Exit the river and fill out a short checklist and opinion survey, and you have just become part of a National Water Trail Certification process. That’s it. I’m looking into a token of gratitude item, something like a safety whistle with the water trail insignia on it, or something along those lines. We’ll see what I can push for. Stay tuned.

So that’s it. This is a long time coming. I know Ralph Frese started talking about this back in the mid-sixties for basically the same reasons and more than that we are working towards now. One step at a time, and this will come to fruition. Stay tuned, this should be a fun one.

Dam Removal on the Lower Des Plaines – A History

By Don Mueggenborg

Lower Des Plaines

Thinking about Wally (story on my bucket list) brought back some memories.

The Des Plaines is – or is on its way – to being dam free. Story about the removal of the first two dams on the lower Des Plaines.

Dam in Lemont. I have seen pictures of people paddling and swimming above a dam in Lemont. Just before WW II, they wanted to put a pipeline across the river someplace above the dam. There were objections and an injunction was issued, but could not be served on a Sunday. The dam was removed with the idea that it would be rebuilt by the WPA or CCC (depression-era government employment programs).

However, the timing was bad. WW II started, WPA and CCC were ended, and the dam never was rebuilt.

Dam in Lockport. Two men drowned while paddling downstream of 135th Street. They were found below the dam in Lockport. The dam was owned by Material Service and, of course, a lawsuit was filed.

Enter Wally and his friends. They were in the area, coming up to paddle from the Peoria area. When they got to the dam, they were stopped by a security guard and sheriff’s police and told to paddle back upstream. If they got out of their canoes, they would be trespassing. Finally they were escorted off the property.

Wally called Ralph Frese who asked me to paddle with him and some lawyers to look over the site.

The lawyers asked if I would be an expert witness and would I say that they drowned going over the unmarked dam. When I said “probably” drowned going over the dam, they did not call me.

Later I met with people from Material Service who said they would remove the dam when the lawsuit was dropped.   They cleared a place to portage the dam more easily after the meeting.

Eventually the lawsuit was dropped and the dam removed. However, the easy takeout below the dam was suddenly off limits, as the Sanitary district put up “no parking” signs.

The effect of the dam removal. Faster water upstream and more water below the dam at “fishnet rapids.” It made it a better place to paddle, but the “no parking” signs made it a longer trip. Takeout at Lockport Prairie Forest Preserve or in Joliet.

Plan Ahead – Trips for the Summer

Don Mueggenborg

Now is the time to begin thinking about summer and where you are going to canoe. Here are some of my favorite trips. For more specific directions, contact me through the newsletter.

 

Great Circle Route – 6 (or is it 7) rivers in one trip.

Channahon, IL. Here is a chance to paddle several bodies of water in one trip.

Take I-55 or Rt. 47 to Rt. 6.   Rt. 6 to Canal St., south to Bridge St.

  • Park by the bike route where the road goes over the I&M Canal (south of the main park – Bridge St.)
  • Put in the DuPage River, paddle out to the Des Plaines (careful of the barges), cross over to Grant Creek.
  • At the bridge, portage over to the slough, paddle across the slough to the Kankakee River.
  • The Kankakee joins the Des Plaines to form the Illinois. Cross over, steep portage to the I&M canal, and return to the parking lot.   (Alternative – paddle upstream (west side of river) until you come to the shelter – portage to the canal.)

The IPC cruised this route several years ago. Might be a good trip to do again as a group – IPC and friends. Invite other clubs.

Probably about four hours.

 

Des Plaines River Expedition

This is a little longer trip – take it in stages. It can be done in 3 or 4 long days or more – but you could conquer it in stages. You might even use a car/bike shuttle in several stages. If there were campgrounds along the way, it would be perfect; however, most of the area along the river is urban (although you don’t know it most of the time you are on the river) and there are no campgrounds.

A bike trail runs along much of the river, from Oak Spring Road on the north to Dam # One on the south. (Check it out, there may be an open spot that I missed in that area.)

There is also a bike trail from Columbia Woods in Willow Springs (“River Through History” historical re-enactment held in September), past Lemont, to Isle a la Cache (135th Street, Romeoville – museum of Voyageur and Indian History).

A portion of the river from Oak Spring Road to Dam # 2 is the site of the Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon (held on May 23 this year – canoemarathon.com).

The river from Harlem Ave. portage site downstream is the route traveled first by Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette. Although the river has been channelized, you can find remnants of the original river, including Goose Lake and the islands at Isle a la Cache.

You start at Russell Road at the state line and end the trip at Ruby Street in Joliet. (The Des Plaines River continues, but is really the Ship and Sanitary Canal.)

 

Cross Illinois by Canoe

Even more ambitious. You can paddle across Illinois by canoe with just one auto portage necessary. (If you can find where Bureau Creek enters the Illinois, you might make it without a mechanical portage.)

  • Start at the state line on the Kankakee River
  • Kankakee River to the Illinois
  • Illinois to the Hennepin Canal (some nice campsites on the canal)
  • Hennepin (Illinois-Mississippi Canal) to the Green River to the Rock (portage the dam by entering the I&M canal and back to the river) to the Mississippi (paddle upstream) to Sunset Park

We found campsites at:

  • Werner Bridge, Kanakee State Park (Day 1 for us)
  • Stratton State Park, Morris (Day 2)
  • Wyanet on the Hennepin Canal (Day 3 – we had to do a car shuttle to make this work)
  • Geneseo on the canal (Day 4)

We did it in 5 days – we paddled steadily.

Linda White, Former IPC president

By Don Mueggenborg

Linda White, former IPC president and champion marathon racer, died October 13, 2016.

Linda was IPC president from 1983 to 1984. She was IPC treasurer from 1985 to 1991.

When Linda took over as president, the Illinois paddling Council was going through one of its transition periods. She helped the transition go smoothly. She was a voice of reason as president and board member.

She seemed to always have a smile on her face and a laugh. She was a very upbeat person. After her health prevented her from racing, she often showed up at races just to say hi and encourage people.

Linda and her husband Doug showed up at the St Charles Canoe Club practice one day with an aluminum canoe. They would paddle by themselves until they were noticed by a couple paddlers who gave them pointers. Before you knew it, they were an active part of the paddling community.

They became champion racers. She often raced with her husband Doug, but also with others in Women’s or Mixed. Many a race I battled Linda and Ed Hahn, when Doug was racing C-1. Whoever she paddled with, they were usually the best on the water. Linda was probably the best woman paddler in Illinois for several years. She won mixed couples racing in 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, and1989; she won women’s in 1984 and 1990. Linda was also one of the smartest paddlers I knew.

On a personal note:

It always amazed me how such a small woman could be such a good paddler. I have paddled with many people over the years, and with some of the best, you can feel the boat move when they make a stroke. When I raced with Linda, you hardly knew she was there, but we always finished first in our class, if not first in the race. I was glad to know her as a friend.