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Author: Sigrid Pilgrim

Let’s Go Paddling the (Dam) Fox River

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By Don Mueggenborg

There are a total of 13 dams on the Fox in Illinois – most are easy portages.

As long as you use some sense, rivers are a good way to keep social distance and enjoy nature. The Fox is the longest and deepest river of all the fine rivers in the collar counties.  Along the way, you will pass parks and forest preserves, some beautiful homes, and historic buildings.

The Fox is really three different types of river. There are pools of deeper water. There are sections where there are ripples where you have to navigate to find the best channel (the part I like best). And finally, there is one of the most scenic rivers in the Midwest.

1) Stay away from the upper Fox- the Chain of Lakes – in the summer time when canoes and kayaks seem to be fair game for the power boaters and jet skis. (To be fair, they are either ignorant of the danger they pose or are too drunk.)

2) The dams. Paddle from pool to pool (good way to use the dams).

John Duer (sp) Kane Co. Forest Preserve off Rt 31 to St. Charles – (take out Ferson Creek (rt) or Pottawatamie Park (left)
St. Mary’s Park, St. Charles to Geneva (take/portage way river left)
Geneva to Batavia (take out Batavia Boat Club river left or portage river (go rt of island)
Batavia to North Aurora (take out/portage river right)
North Aurora to Aurora (easiest take-out on island)

3) The ripples (I like the challenge of having to read the river.)
Algonquin to Dundee (river rt at dam) or Voyageur landing
South Elgin (park river left, block south of highway) to John Duer (stay way right at foot bridge)
Oswego to Yorkville to Silver Springs State Park to Shuh Shuh Gah Canoe launch (off Whittfield Rd – Kendall Co FPD)

There is a whitewater course in Yorkville that you might want to run instead of portage (but not in a Kevlar or carbon fiber boat).

4) The scenic Shuh Shuh Gah (you try to pronounce it) through Sheridan to Wedron
However – this is all private land and you have to park at the livery in Sheridan or one of the two liveries in Wedron.

This area has high bluffs, a cave, beautiful scenery – what a shame it is not public.

You could paddle from Shu Shu or Silver Springs and past Wedron and portage the dam at Dayton (river right).

If you want more information, contact me.

Where Is My Sea Kayak Rack

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By Sigrid Pilgrim

For years I have been fortunate that the City of Evanston has a boat storage facility at the Dempster Street Beach on Lake Michigan. It’s nice to have the boat there and just be able to pull it off the rack rather than cartopping it there.

I went for a walk on Thursday, April 30, and “WHERE IS MY RACK?” I have rack Nr. 200, which is completely buried by the sand that the huge waves have covered much of the beach. I hope the City can find it so I can put my boat there again.

Have You Paddled the ??????

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By Don Mueggenborg

Some places seldom paddled in Illinois:

The Fox River between Silver Springs State Park and Shuh Shuh Gun Canoe Landing.
We discovered this canoe landing a couple years ago. The river is much like the river from Yorkville to Silver Springs with ripples to navigate and forest lined banks. Solitude. The trick is finding Shuh Shuh Gum (Kendal County FPD).

Skokie Lagoons – built by WPA in the 1930’s – a series of pools and islands and an adventure discovering all the different ways to go. A place near the city to get away from it all.

Sangamon River – I have paddled in the Decauter area and from Springfield to New Salem. The river winds among forests, not many residents along the way.

The Spoon – called the Grand Canyon of Illinois because of the clay banks streaked with red, brown, black. At normal water levels, the river sneaks and curves through canyons and farm country.

Blackberry Creek – I put in at Bliss Woods and paddled to Prairie St., Aurora. A narrow little creek – fun, but prone to log jams after a storm.

Pecatonica River – The Friends of the Pecatonica have done a great job building boat launches. River winds through farmland and forests.

Canals

Hennipin Canal – The canal runs from the Illinois River (sorry no access at the Illinois – go to the town of Tiskilwa) to the Mississippi River. No longer used for anything but recreation. It is fun to paddle through the whistles (tubes that go under the roads). I liked camping at Mineral and Wyanet. Interesting museum.

I & M Canal – Channahan to Gehardt Wood. You paddle on an aqueduct in a couple places. This could be a paddle and bike trip.

My Adventures in Canoeing

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-By Don Mueggenborg

It’s been over 70 years since I first paddled a canoe at Boy Scout Camp Delevan. I have had my share of adventures and fun.

Maybe my first adventure was at Camp Delevan. I had just earned my canoeing merit badge and that evening Dale and I went out for a cruise. A couple boys just got their swimming classification and were in a canoe for the first time. They dumped – we rescued them. They would not get back into their canoe so I transferred over and paddle back in their boat. Instead of praise, we got heck for not making them get back in their canoe.

Since this is my story, I won’t tell of the times we screwed up. I won’t tell about the time in the Sangamon All-Craft Race when we – 3 of us in a tripping canoe – started with kayak paddles and decided to switch to canoe paddles. Someone, I won’t say who, leaned a little too much when stowing the kayak paddles. Swift current and the banks were clay – we could not get out for a long time.

Sangamon All-Craft Race – they subtracted 1 hour from the john boat time and added 45 minutes to the racing canoes. Missed a shortcut but managed to beat Skeet and Doug by a boat length. I can see the paddle we won engraved “Best Time” Year 1982.

I could tell you about the times we made a great buoy turn in the Current Buster canoe race to beat Brad and Fred, but I won’t tell you about the time called for a cross-bow at that same turn and my partner’s paddle got caught on the rope holding the buoy. We swam while several boats passed us with the “are you ok?” smile on their faces.

I won’t tell about my first race – Des Plaines in 1969. Got sucked under Ryerson dam – lost a paddle – ruined our lunches (20 miles with no lunch?), ruined the radio – wasn’t very good music anyway.

I won’t mention the time we lost Joe while we were paddling across Illinois (he was ok, only had to make a pit-stop). But I do remember camping along the Hennepin Canal and going to sleep to the sound of the water flowing over the old lock. Great camping on the canal.

Or the time on that trip when a cabin cruiser on the Illinois put up a ten-foot wave (seemed that big) and we had more water in the boat than I usually did in my bath tub. We did make it to shore as did Joe and Ben – barely.

Or the crazy race with Voyageur boats at Ouitetenon. We had to turn and cross the finish line backwards. We were leading when I called for the turn. Tom in the bow started to turn left while I was turning right. We realized it at the same time and switched. Two canoes passed us before we got our act together. Embarrassing – but they ruled the other canoes turned too late and did not back across the line and we won. I said a crazy race.

The Skokie Lagoons race – Ice Cream before and after the race – Stan the sponsor standing on a bridge telling you where to turn or his helper doing my portage for me (never could figure out how we did not have a portage going around the island, but had one on the other side) and following the bubbles in the water left by the heat ahead of you. Fun and low key.

Hope my reminiscing took your mind off the virus and got you planning to paddle again.

New Boat Launch on the DuPage River in Lisle – Finally

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The forever on again off again project?

The first public launch on the East Branch of the DuPage River has long been in the works. The Lisle Park District started this endeavor back in 2007 with informal communications with various paddling groups as a means of testing of the waters (pun intended) to construct a launch in Community Park, located just west of the intersection of Route 53 and Short Street in Lisle.

The feedback was unanimously positive, so we engaged architects and engineers to design a launch and submitted funding applications to the IDNR’s Boat Access Area Development Grant Program.

After several unsuccessful years, we were finally notified in 2015 that our project was to receive funding. However, that funding was put on hold and eventually swept away during the governor transition at that time. We were notified in the summer of 2018 that the 2015 grant would be honored. After several months of completing the required paperwork for this award, the Lisle Park District bid the project last August.

Unfortunately, bids came in much higher than expected and budgeted. After researching the benefits of such a boat launch, especially given the growth of paddlesport participants, with the help of the Illinois Paddling Council, the Board of Park Commissioners followed staff’s recommendation to reject all bids and rebid the project in January 2020 when we expected a more competitive bidding environment.

The project was bid this January as recommended and the low bid was close to $32,000 lower than the low bid from August 2019. The Park Board unanimously approved awarding the contract under staff’s statement that “now that we have the grant agreement from the IDNR, the financial commitment from the Lisle Partners for Parks Foundation, adequate funding in the Park District’s 2020 Budget and now a low bid that is within current budget allocations, it appears the stars have finally aligned.”

We may have spoken too soon by not anticipating the current pandemic, but for now, we remain committed to seeing this project through. Construction is tentatively scheduled for August and as of the writing of this article, the Lisle Park District is being optimistic about following through on this 13-year initiative and looks forward to seeing a lot of you at the ribbon cutting and thereafter! Stay tuned and think positively!

-By Dan Garvy

Director of Parks & Recreation

Lisle Park District

Pedal, Paddle, & Hike

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Pedal, Paddle, and Hike!

Those words embody the vision we had when work started on developing the Pecatonica River as a water trail in Stephenson County. We worked long and hard and were able to reach that goal. Most importantly, we advocate for our projects and we raise money to build our projects.

We were designated a WaterTrail by Stephenson County. That wasn’t enough. Our initial plan identified launch sites for the Pecatonica River throughout Stephenson County. Our plan was developed using Illinois Paddling Council procedures. Work on additional sites was begun. Brochures were printed, events were scheduled, and use of the Pecatonica River promoted. We were designated a water trail in the State of Illinois.

Except for Mother Nature “raining on our parade” or flooding, things are progressing. Now we see what could be a step backward in the “Pedal, Paddle, and Hike” plan. The Jane Addams trail is part of a “Rails to Trails” conversion of former railroad routes, to bike trails. Part of the bridge near Cedarville Road has deteriorated to the point where the maintenance equipment used on the trail cannot use the bridge. Bicycle traffic is acceptable, for now.

The bridge in question is about 133 years old, was a construction of Chicago, Madison & Northern, 1886 – 1888, and part of the Illinois Central. The route was abandoned in 1985. Railroads take bridges very seriously and that is why it has lasted so long. However, it is time for some attention for this structure.

Jane Addams Trail, 133-year-old bridge support

The current economic situation, caused by the Covid—19 pandemic, is likely to impact municipal income at every level and for a very long time. Those interested in maintaining the current level of recreational opportunities will need to make their voices heard and participate in the search for funding to maintain existing bike and hiking trails. You should also realize that not all of the local representatives are in support of all recreational activities. It is important to make your opinions known and to be prepared to work together finding ways to fund our resources.

For us, the Wes Block site for the Jane Addams Trail was on our list as a potential launch site because it is half-way between McNeil’s Damascus Landing and Tutty’s Crossing. The site was also the trailhead for the Jane Addams Trail. Now there is a bike trail connection from Wes Block to Tutty’s Crossing, which also has a boat launch and a canoe/kayak launch. If you bike, hike or paddle, get involved in finding the funding solutions.

Joe Ginger, president
Friends of the Pecatonica River Foundation

Jane Addams Trail

The Illinois Central was chartered by the Illinois General Assembly on February 10, 1851. At its completion in 1856, the IC was the longest railroad in the world. Its main line went from Cairo, Illinois to Galena, Illinois. In 1886, the Chicago, Madison & Northern ran a line north from Freeport to Madison, Wisconsin, completed by 1888. They joined the Illinois Central in 1903. The line ran through Scioto Mills and Red Oak. At Red Oak, the Illinois Central built a junction station where the line branched. The northern branch, running through Buena Vista and Orangeville, became known as the Madison branch. This branch is what now constitutes the Jane Addams.

On February 1st, 1888, the first train ran the entire distance between Freeport, Illinois and Madison, Wisconsin.

Joseph Ginger
jtginger@mac.com

Canoe Trivia

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Some questions that have popped into my mind while stuck in the house. I ask the questions – give my answer. Think of your answer and share with us.

1. Oddest or strangest paddling or racing experience.

2. Longest paddling experience (time, distance).

3. Most fun or greatest thrill while paddling.

4. River you what to paddle again.

My answers:

1a. Dead Fish Race. Race in Decatur on the Sangamon. In order to have enough water for the race, they closed the dam for a hot night before the race. Race day they opened up the dam and hundreds of dead carp came floating out. We were catching dead carp on the bow of our boat for five miles.

1b. Sangamon All Craft Race. The rules make this interesting. Subtract an hour from the john boats, add 45 minutes to the racing canoes. Recreation canoes – no change.
One year, three of us paddled in a tripping canoe (recreational canoe). Our competition was a 6 man homemade rowing boat. They started ahead of us and we caught them at the finish line. They were ruled recreational. 45 minutes were added to our time because we paddled like racers.

1c. A slalom race in Rockford. The course was marked by black and white balloons. With the hot sun, the balloons popped one by one giving each boat a different course.

2a. 100 mile race on the Wabash. Water almost in flood stage for part of the race. Did it in 13 hours, Ed did it in 12:57. We celebrated with ice cream.

2b. Paddle across Illinois. 250 miles, 4 and one-half days.

3. Maybe the times we paddled in Quetico, Canada. A week of paddling in the wilderness with my family and friends was the most fun I think. See in kids – grade school and HS freshmen enjoy nature.

4a. The General Clinton Race course on the Susquehanna from Cooperstown to Bainbridge. 70 miles in a beautiful valley (and we even took 3rd place one year). Thanks Don for pulling me down the river.

4b. Juniper Creek that runs out of Juniper Springs in Florida. Winding through jungle like scenery.

Your turn = share with us.

-By Don Mueggenborg

Fabulous Fox! Water Trail Website

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Enjoy a wonderful article about the Fabulous Fox! Water Trail recently published in Kane Conty Connects – see here for details

Then go to https://fabulousfoxwatertrail.org/ to download the wonderful website that gives you all the info you need to enjoy many different stretches of paddling this great river.

Congratulations to the team that for the last several years worked so hard to put this all together.

Sigrid Pilgrim