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Category: Access and Water Trails Development

LINCOLN HERITAGE WATER TRAIL – http://www.lincolnheritagewatertrail.org/

LINCOLN HERITAGE WATER TRAIL – http://www.lincolnheritagewatertrail.org/

The Lincoln Heritage Water Trail spans two historic sites – the Lincoln Homestead State Park near Decatur and the New Salem State Historic Site near Petersburg. These sites bracket an Abraham Lincoln tale, replete with quick wit and strong will, that began in 1831. It starts with a canoe trip by a 22-year-old Lincoln upon a flooding Sangamon River from his family’s homestead site near Decatur to the Springfield area. At Sangamo Town, seven miles northwest of Springfield, he built an 80-foot flatboat and set off for New Orleans but ran aground at the mill dam below the New Salem bluff. Undaunted, he saved it from sinking (with an auger commandeered from the village cooper shop) before continuing his journey.

The Lincoln Heritage Water Trail Association works to create a living tribute to the Sangamon River and open it up to e

exploring the water and landscape, largely unchanged from Lincoln’s time.  The Sangamon River offers a rare opportunity to canoe, kayak, fish or just float and take photos of native life on the Illinois prairie and the rolling hills of the river valley.

The stretch of the Sangamon River from Decatur to Petersburg, has the direct historical connection with the life of Abraham Lincoln and was first formally recognized in 1965 when Illinois Governor Otto Kerner designated it as the Lincoln Heritage Canoe Trail.

Currently, the Lincoln Heritage Water Trail is being expanded to the river’s upper reaches, thanks to the efforts of the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy (http://sangamonriver.org)  and the Sangamon River Alliance (http://sangamonriveralliance.org). For more information on either of these groups, please contact Scott Hays at sphays12@gmaiol.com

KANKAKEE RIVER NATIONAL WATER TRAIL – http://www.kankakeeriverwatertrail.org

Claimed to be one of the cleanest rivers in the Midwest, the Kankakee has ancient wetlands, cliffs and canyons, wooded islands and the gentle farmlands of northwestern Indiana and northeastern Illinois along the 133-mile stretch. There are four distinct trips – check the website and trip map for details:

  1. Upper River – Kankakee Headwaters to the Yellow River: This entirely channelized section runs through farmland, with very little tree cover in many areas.

 

  1. Wooded Channel – Yellow River to the State Line: This mostly channelized section has more tree cover and runs through several state parks and conservation areas.

 

  1. Ancient Wetland – State Line to Momence: At the Illinois state line, the river reverts to a natural meandering course through some of the best wetland habitat in the Prairie State.

 

  1. Grand Waterway – Momence to the Illinois River: A boater’s and paddler’s playground through urban and suburban areas, with a long run through Kankakee State Park before meeting the Illinois River.

 

Recognizing the cultural, environmental, recreational and economic significance of the Kankakee River, its 2016 designation as a National Water Trail, and its related watershed, various individuals came together in 2017 to create the Potawatomi Paddlers Association (PPA). This organization was formed to encourage and enable safe and environmentally-sensitive recreational use of the Illinois portion of Kankakee River National Water Trail for paddle sports, leave-no-trace camping and other non-motorized activities by all people attracted to the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of river recreation. This mission will be accomplished through the planning and implementation of public information and education campaigns, and through activities that build and sustain a positive recreational environment.

 

The focus of the PPA is to carry out a myriad of planning initiatives and play a key role in changing how municipalities within the Kankakee River watershed treat the River in development ordinances and plans. This includes but is not limited to river edge improvements to include boat landings, water side parks and other enhancements; policy initiatives aimed at improving the quality of the river so that it can support native plants, fish and other wildlife and a variety of recreational uses; on-the-ground projects that result in physical improvements and preservation of quality habitat; and education and outreach programs that inform and inspire people to help revitalize the Kankakee River.

 

The PPA meets on the second Thursday of each month. As we try to reach out to all areas along the Kankakee River between Momence and Wilmington, the location of our monthly meeting changes each month. Times and locations of our meetings are posted on our Facebook page.

 

For more information, please contact the Potawatomi Paddlers Association at P. O. Box 503, Kankakee, IL 60901, or contact PPA President Frank Koehler at fjkoehler@aol.com.

 

WISCONSIN-ILLINOIS FOX RIVER WATER TRAIL INITIATIVE – UNDER DEVELOPMENT – http://www.foxriverecosystem.org/trail.htm

The Fox River of Illinois—not to be confused with the Fox River of central Wisconsin—arises in southern Wisconsin in a lake basin about 15 miles northwest of Milwaukee. From this point, the Fox flows southward for over 200 miles (114 miles in Illinois) and drops 470 vertical feet to reach its confluence with the Illinois River. As the Fox enters Illinois, it passes through Illinois’ Chain o’ Lakes and then meanders southward through Lake, McHenry, Kane, Kendall and LaSalle Counties.

The Fox River is a major waterway with many small islands. Its steep valley has an average gradient of 3.6 feet per mile, and its strong flow made the stream a good source for industrial waterpower. This led to early industrial development with many dams and mills built on the stream. Now most of the old mill dams are gone, but they have been replaced by hydroelectric, flood control, and navigation dams.

The Fox River Ecosystem Partnership (FREP) was formed in 1996 after the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) designated a core of high-quality ecological resources in the northern-most watershed as a “Resource Rich Area”.  Portions of eleven counties, including Lake, McHenry, Kane, Kendall and LaSalle, form the Fox River watershed, which is home to 11% of the state’s population.

FREP has joined with the Southeast Wisconsin Fox River Partnership and the Village of Waterford, Wisconsin, to pursue the designation of all or portions of the Fox River in Wisconsin and Illinois as a National Water Trail through the National Park Services’ National Water Trail System. Technical assistance from the NPS Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program has been awarded and planning is now proceeding.

Volunteers are needed to submit information about paddling the river, historic information, and more.

 

Contact Karen Miller millerkaren@co.kane.il.us for more details

BANNER MARSH

 

BANNER MARSH – http://www.illinoispaddling.info/2015/09/banner-marsh-water-trail-project/

 

The Banner Marsh Canoe Trail was officially established in 2016 and is part of the Banner Marsh State Fish & Wildlife Area and is located approximately 25 miles southwest of Peoria on U.S. Route 24. It is protected from the Illinois River by a major levee. Teeming with fish and wildlife, Banner Marsh provides various outdoor activities, including hunting, fishing, boating, dog training, picnicking, wildlife observation and photography. Three public access areas lead into Banner Marsh, all of which have parking lots, boat ramps, restrooms and picnic areas. The only type of camping allowed at Banner Marsh is youth group camping. Nearby Rice Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area has camping facilities available.

Contact Jeff Fitch for more information: jdf1966@yahoo.com

ILLINOIS WATER TRAILS – A SPECIAL ISSUE OF THE ILLINOIS PADDLING COUNCIL

Illinois – according to Wikipedia has 98 rivers. Our state is bordered by 880 miles of rivers and contains a total of 87,110 miles of rivers and streams. IDNR’s list of Public Waters names 48 rivers and lakes, several multiple times. Eliminating the multiple listings for different navigable sections of the same rivers and lakes, there are only 34 rivers officially navigable, which of course, includes such rivers as the Mississippi, Ohio, and Illinois, not always on our most favorite list of rivers to paddle, with, of course, some exceptions.

This special issue of the ILLINOIS PADDLER is dedicated to the group of paddlers, private and public entities, that are working together to establish water trails, the definition of which is

Water trails are marked routes on navigable waterway such as rivers, lakes, canals and coastlines for recreational use. They allow access to waterways for non-motorized boats and sometimes motorized vessels, inner tubes, and other craft.

But this simple definition holds a vast treasure of benefits when National Park Service created the National Water Trails System in 1968:

Recreation Opportunities: The water trail route has established public access points that accommodate a diversity of trip lengths and provide access to a variety of opportunities for recreation and education.

Education: The water trail users are provided with opportunities to learn about the value of water resources, cultural heritage, boating skills, and outdoor ethics.

Conservation: The water trail provides opportunities for communities to develop and implement strategies that enhance and restore the health of the local waterways and surrounding lands.

Community Support: Local communities provide support and advocacy for the maintenance and stewardship of the water trail.

Public Information: The public is provided with accessible and understandable water trail information, including details for identifying access and trail routes; cultural, historic, and natural features; hazards; and water quality. The water trail is promoted to the community and broad national audience.

Trail Maintenance: Demonstrate ability to support routine and long-term maintenance investments on the water trail. Facilities are designed, constructed, and maintained incorporating sustainability principles.

Planning: Maintain a water trail plan that describes a vision, desired future conditions, and strategies to strengthen best management practices.

So congratulations to those groups whose efforts have created or are working hard to establish a now national or state recognized water trail.

Illinois Recreational Access Program – IRAP

By Sigrid Pilgrim

With efforts to develop water trails on a number of Illinois Rivers – we wanted to let you know about the IRAP Program by IDNR. This program leases private property throughout the state for semi-controlled public access for outdoor recreational opportunities. Currently, there are three such access sites for non-motorized craft in Bureau and Schuyler counties on the Illinois River, and on the Sangamon River in Sangamon County. Landowners are compensated with a few hundred dollars annually for making their private land available to the public for recreational purposes.

IRAP is federally funded through the NRCS Volunteer Public Access – Habitat Improvement Program (VPA-HIP) grant, and IDNR’s funding runs out in 2018 and is contingent upon the 2019 Farm Bill. (Let’s hope it will continue under the current administration).

Until then – everyone working on developing water trails – check out the details of this fabulous program. Although there are some restrictions – see linked below – perhaps there is a way you can identify potential private land owners who might want to participate in exchange for a few hundred dollars, and also the values this program contains. According to IDNR – landowners also benefit from conservation efforts by removing invasive species, upgrading potential access sites with gravel, and the knowledge that they are introducing more people to the wonders only the natural environment can bring.

For more details – please contact Tammy.Miller@illinois.gov.

IRAP_2_FactSheet_Jan2017

Sangamon River Alliance

By Scott Hays

Last November, several groups and organizations came together with a common interest in the Sangamon River. Over 240 miles in length, the Sangamon courses through several towns including Mahomet, Monticello, Decatur (where a dam on the Sangamon forms Lake Decatur), Springfield, the historic town of Lincoln’s New Salem, and Petersburg before joining the Illinois River at Beardstown. On that day, people from organizations spanning these towns were there.

The initial goal was to meet, talk, network and explore shared interests and opportunities. And out of this meeting, a new organization was formed that we feel could be a model for river stewardship across Illinois and indeed, everywhere: the Sangamon River Alliance (SRA).

Our current draft mission statement explains that this group will be “dedicated to the stewardship of the Sangamon River watershed” and will “promote watershed conservation, education, and recreation.” “Working together, members of the Sangamon River Alliance will amplify the voice and good work of all of the organizations committed to the well-being of the Sangamon River watershed.”

For a river group within the state of Illinois, the SRA is comprised of an impressive diversity of interests and organizations, including: the Friends of the Sangamon Valley, the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy, Heart of the Sangamon Partnership, Lincoln Heritage Water Trail Association, Friends of Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park, Macon County Master Naturalists, Menard County Trails and Greenways, Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District, City of Decatur Water Production, the Agricultural Watershed Institute, the Village of Mahomet, the Illinois Audubon Society, the American Canoe Association, Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network, the Illinois Paddling Council, the Illinois State Museum, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Massie and Massie Associates,  which has helped with rivertrail plan development.

Not merely a paddling group or even a river group, the SRA seeks to take in the entire Sangamon watershed as the territory it covers, including the river, its tributaries and the surrounding landscape. In addition, we welcome expanded membership from any and all other groups, organizations, and agencies that are active throughout our watershed.

Again, quoting from our draft vision statement: “The Sangamon River Alliance creates a network for sharing and broadcasting information about the efforts of every organization that promotes conservation, and encourages educational and recreational opportunities throughout the Sangamon River watershed.”

For now, the group seeks to serve as a forum for coordinating the varied activities among the member groups. Currently there are no plans for the SRA to have a budget, a board of officers, although we are creating our website, which we hope will act as a ‘one-stop shopping’ site for any and all information about happenings, information, events, and stories for everything Sangamon River. Soon, we hope to hold a ‘Sangamon River Fair’ where all of our member groups can come out and meet the public, and visitors can learn more about the Sangamon watershed.

We hope that you will take an interest in our group and in our river in our part of the state. Come visit us and check out our website at sangamonriveralliance.org.

We’d like to leave everyone with this thought from our SRA draft vision statement: “We have an extraordinary capacity to document and analyze ecosystem threats and to conserve and restore habitats, and most importantly, we have a profound responsibility to ensure the vitality of nature for future generations.”

Fox River National River Trail Update

By Greg Taylor

The Core Development Team (CDT) is currently working on developing the final draft of the reporting form that will be used by paddlers to gather the information that will be used to determine the database for the certification. The known entry/exit points and campsites along the river are currently being plotted on a map for a clearer understanding of where gaps are that need to be verified for their attributes, along with the age of the data that might need to be re-verified this summer. The age of some of the existing data might be too old to use and will have to be paddled again for a current condition (aka more than 7-10 years old? and older). Probably not a great loss-who doesn’t like an easy afternoon paddle on an easy flowing, tree-lined avenue?

I will be at CanoeCopia this March – on Saturday and Sunday – with a signup sheet for those who would like to help out with the ground-truthing, paddling information-gathering opportunities of the Initiative. I will be at the Prairie State Paddlers’ table (an excellent organization I might add) when I’m not checking out all the cool new gear and info that the fest has to offer. Anyone think a dew rag with the Fox River as an entry/exit map would be a good souvenir to those who help out? Stop by the table and give me your opinion, I’ll listen.

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.

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.