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From the President’s Desk Year In Review and Looking Forward



Wow, Has it been a year already? At the beginning of the year I discussed the following five priorities for the IPC, coming from last year’s paddlers’ survey


  • Development of Water Trails and Access Points.
  • Advocacy
  • Safety and Education
  • Stewardship
  • Our Web Page and Online Presence


So how have we done? Some Highlights of the year




I would like to think that we are heading in the right direction, but still have a lot to do! Should anyone want to take a more active role in the IPC, I would welcome the increased participation. There are a number of board positions available. Please feel free to contact me so we can discuss how to get involved.




Tom Eckels,

President, Illinois Paddling Council

Program Manager, Illinois Water TrailKeepers




From the President’s Desk:


Paddling Safety Task Force


There have been far too many news stories about people going out in unsafe conditions and getting themselves in trouble or killed.  Two different groups of rafters got hung up on strainers on the DuPage at High Flood stage and had to be rescued. A tuber and a kayaker were killed on the Mackinaw at High Water.


It is very clear that many people do not understand the safety issues or the skills required to safely enjoy Illinois Paddleable waterways.  There have been a lot of discussions both on Facebook and via email lists about how to address this problem.


Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach:


Develop press outreach materials and a press outreach campaign to help steer media articles to discuss the safety issue.


Develop and distribute Online Safety materials.  Either develop new materials and link to already existing materials.  Make sure that the materials are available widely on the web and through social media.


Develop and Distribute Printed Safety materials at events by staffing informational tables, through retailers and liveries, etc.


Develop, promote, and support formal training opportunities for people to learn to enjoy our waterways safely and responsibly.


In our board meeting, the IPC voted to charter a Paddling Safety Taskforce.  However, this will be too big for the IPC to accomplish by ourselves. It will need to involve a coalition of Organizations, paddling clubs, paddle sports businesses, liveries, and individuals working on this task force.


Who else is in?




Sarah Hartman Fund for Paddle Sports Education


We are all saddened by the passing of a fellow paddler, Sarah Hartman.  As an Avid Sea Kayaker, Flat Water River Kayaker, White Water Kayaker, Sarah touched so many of our lives.  She was an incredible Athlete, coach, teacher, and friend.  Any words in this newsletter are inadequate to the task of expressing the loss.


Her Family has requested that Donations in her memory be made to either Team River Runner or Chicago Adventure Therapy.  We would ask people to give generously to these great organizations in her memory!


There is a web page available to express ones memories of Sarah at: http://www.legacy.com/guestbook/Batesville/guestbook.aspx?n=sarah-hartman&pid=175286131

The IPC Board voted to rename the Heartland Fund to the Sarah Hartman Fund for Paddle Sports Education.  The heartland fund was established several years ago to help with a small stipend to those who achieve level-3 ACA Instructor certifications (or the equivalent BCU Coaching Certificates).  More information for the Sarah Hartman Fund for Paddle Sports Education  is available on the IPC Website:  http://www.illinoispaddling.info/heartland-fund/


Tom Eckels



President, Illinois Paddling Council

Report Dumping

By now everyone has probably seen the big California Oil Spill on the news. How about the two Illinois Oil Spills, one in Galina and one near Sidney in the Salt Fork of the Vermillion River? Read about them here:






While these are dramatic examples, it doesn’t take a train-wreck-sized spill to have an environmental impact. Even small events matter. So you are paddling your favorite body of water, and notice a chemical sheen. Besides being grossed out…what do you do? One paddler of the Fox River on Memorial Day weekend experienced just this. Jake, contacted the local authorities in Aurora who were extremely responsive. Eric, who has been involved with volunteer water quality monitoring projects, and also happens to be the City Engineer was able to trace the spill back to the source and clean it up!  The Illinois EPA was also notified to investigate the spill. Great Victory guys!


A few years back, also on the Fox, some paddlers discovered a fish-kill off. They contacted local authorities. Eventually the culprit was found, and justice served. Great Victory!


Last Month, Mike Taylor and Tom Eckels were paddling the Little Calumet River. We discovered a illegal disposal site of truck tires and automotive parts behind a trucking company, dumped in the river. A call was placed to the local authorities. It is yet to be seen as to what happens. Let’s hope for another great victory!

So you are paddling on your favorite waterway. You find a chemical spill or an illegal dump site. What do you do? First of all, do not come into direct contact with any potential contaminants. Let the professionals do their job. The safest thing to do is to report it. But to whom. A good place to start is your local village/town/city/county hall. The staff there could direct you to the local authorities who can take direct action. Additionally these types of incidents fall into the jurisdiction of the Illinois EPA. For a chemical spill or other emergency; For A non-emergency:

Another tool available is the Report a Water Trail Problem of the Water TrailKeepers. WTK volunteers are willing to assist as much as we can!

No responsiveness from the local government or Illinois EPA? Consider contacting your State and/or Federal Senator or Representative’s office. Putting a little political heat under the feet of those responsible is always an option.  Also find organizations such as the Illinois Water TrailKeepers, Prairie River Networks, American Rivers, River Alliance, Friends of groups, etc. etc. etc. to help address the issue. Many organizations have existing relationships with authorities, and can call on their relationships to help get things cleaned up!


A Call To Action

From the Presidents Desk

A Call to Action

It is an exciting time to be a paddler in Illinois–there are a lot of projects and programs working towards improving paddling in Illinois.  I would like to thank you in advance for taking some of your valuable time and supporting these activities, and others as they come up.  Please feel free to contact me and I will put you in contact with the appropriate people for these projects.

Several communities are looking to improve their waterfront presence, and we have the opportunity to provide input.  Notably there are active projects along the Fox River in St Charles, Carpentersville, and Algonquin.  There is another project on the KanKakee River in Wilmington, IL.

There are active projects for three Illinois Rivers to become recognized as National Water Trails.  There are committees working on the Sangamon River, Kankakee River, and Fox River for this designation.  Additionally there is a active signage project on Banner Marsh in Central IL establishing it as a locally recognized Water Trail

Proposed legislation passed the House and Senate and is awaiting the Signature of our Governor to help improve the Water Usage Stamp by exempting out-of-state paddlers from the Stamp when they participate in paddling events in IL. Our Water Usage Stamp task force will continue to work on promoting incremental improvements of the program.

IPC Programs Remain Active: The River Closure Task Force continues to work with the DNR to address arbitrary river closures based on ‘high water’.  Water TrailKeepers Continues to run cleanups;  Paddlers Patrol continues to provide safety at events. Our Newsletter Committee has been working hard to produce these newsletters, and our web committee has worked hard to update the IPC Website.

For those who have renewed or become new Members this year, Thank YOU! You directly support our continued involvement in these activities and more. If you have not yet become a member for 2015, it is not too late. Memberships now accepted on line:

Tom Eckels

President, Illinois Paddling Council

Program Manager, Illinois Water TrailKeepers



Dams By Don Mueggenborg

Every year many people die because of low head dams. Above the dam, boaters may get too close to the dam and go over. Below the dam, fishermen wander too close to the dam and are sucked into the hydraulic. Many of us have dam stories – and we have all damned the dams at one time or another.

The dams are coming out or possibly being converted to a whitewater chute. The reason for the dams no longer exists – they have become obsolete. Removing them is healthier for the river and removes a potential danger spot (in many cases, the dams are in need of extensive repair.)

Dams had their uses when they were built. They were used to form a pool for a Mill Race. They were used to provide a ford across the river (e.g., Dam # 1 and Dam # 2 on the Des Plaines). They were used for recreation (e.g., swimming, canoeing, boating); in fact, you can still see the bolts that anchored a diving board above Dam # 2 on the Des Plaines. Dams were used for flood control. They were used for sanitation – sewage went directly into the river, and in low water, it was exposed to the air and smelled; dams kept the water level up and the stench down. Ryerson Dam was built so Ryerson’s horses could cross the river below the dam.

 Dam Removal:   dam1 before removaldam 1 removal

A considerable amount of dam removal has already, or will be occurring, on the Des Plaines River. Work is under way to remove Hollister Dam and Half-Day Dam. If not already completed, the dam in Des Plaines and Dam #4 on the Des Plaines River are scheduled for removal. Already removed on the Des Plaines River are a small dam in Lockport, Riverside Dam, Ryerson Dam, Dam # 1, and Dam # 2. The Des Plaines River should be dam-free by the end of the summer of 2015.

Other dam removal projects include the Carpentersville Dam on the Fox River – this is the latest dam removal announcement. The dam at north Batavia will be removed by nature, if it is not removed by man first (i.e., the dam south of Batavia on the Fox River). In addition, the dam has been removed from the West Branch of the DuPage River in Warrenville.

Dam Conversion to Whitewater

The dam in Yorkville has become a whitewater play park with an annual slalom race, and plans are being considered to build whitewater courses for several other dams. St Charles is considering a grand plan with several grades of whitewater chutes. There has been talk of a whitewater chute in Aurora (there is an attempt in place that was built several years ago, but it never was really functional). Rockford is also considering a whitewater chute on the Rock River (at present, it would require a long portage to get around the dam). Finally, Algonquin is also considering a whitewater conversion on the Fox River.

Good news.   Removing dams is safer – cutting the possibility of drowning and eliminating portages.   It is better environmentally for fish and for the flow of the rivers. Although the water level above the dam will drop, the water level below the dam rises.

The Vic Hopp Race starts at Dam # 1 on the Des Plaines River – go upstream and return. This year with the dam removed and low water level, we had one of the most interesting starts to a race that I have ever encountered. We were hitting bottom with our paddles, but the waves from all the boats tossed us this way and that. We would get a wave and shoot out ahead of a nearby boat only to be stuck behind another wave and have them pass. This was for the first several minutes of the race. Wish I could have said it pushed us to the front of the pack, but alas, that did not happened.

Paddler’s Unite By Sigrid Pilgrim

It can be serene, peaceful and quiet; or wild, raucous and dangerous; it can be tranquil and slow; or fast and racy and competitive.


 Maybe it’s called Recreational Canoeing, or Whitewater Rodeo, Olympic Flatwater Racing, or Mississippi Annual Down River Adventure by Canoe… maybe it’s Poling a Whitewater River Upstream, or possibly Paddling a Voyageur Canoe in Lake Superior, maybe it’s Watching Whales from a Sea Kayak, or Fishing in an Illinois Stream, maybe Surfing a Breaking Crest on the Pacific or Floating a Meandering River in Anywhere…

Geography mostly determines the kind of water we live nearby. And many of us spend hours driving to escape this geography in pursuit of our preferred type of water and action.

But wouldn’t you agree that no matter what kind of craft we paddle, which stick we use, what water we like to be on and what action we prefer, we still have more in common than sets us apart!

Just imagine for a moment that all paddlers in this country would unite as one group – that the recreational canoeist supports the Olympic racer, the whitewater fanatic writes in support of coastal protection… And one organization with united voice demands and supports legislation for conservation of waters; speaks in unison against unnecessary fees or taxation; promotes water safety through education, advocates for access.

Just imagine what a powerful group we could be if we spoke in one voice, pooled resources, and acted together. This doesn’t mean we couldn’t paddle the type of craft with the kind of stick on the choice of water and the type of action we preferred… it’s just that we’d all unite behind the fact that we all need a craft that floats us, a stick to propel us, and water in liquid form… the rest are just minor variables! And maybe we have a starting point with the recent merger of the ACA and USACK.