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Mark Your Calendars – May 21, 2017 – The 60TH Annual Des Plaines River Canoe & Kayak Marathon

For the first time in event history – the river is free flowing – no more portaging dams!

Check out the pictures from the 2016 event (below) – great paddling, great food, great music, and great cameraderie – be part of a tradition – and make it your tradition.

For more information – check out www.canoemarathon.com

2017 Marathon flyer: DPM

2016 Marathon photos:

1. Music to Entertain
2. Pizzas in the Wood Oven
3. Pizza Options
4. Or Sandwiches
5. Fun Lunch
6. Valued Sponsor
7. The T-shirt Tent
8. Keeping Boats Safe
9. Inside the Canoe Corral
10. Coast Guard Station
11. Boat Numbers are a MUST
12. Guidance to t-shirts and patches
13. Checking the score board
14. Emergency help just in case
15. Finally done
16. Near the Takeout
17. Reading the Boat Numbers
18. Scoring the Finishers
19. The Course
20. The Finish Line
22. All done paddling – takeout
23. Race Head Quarters
24. Thank you all for hall
25. Dangers of Dams
26. Thank you Forest Preserves of Cook County
27. Trophies waiting for their recipients
29. Announcing the winners
30. Some winners
31. The Score Board
32. One of the best


Calling / Requesting / Soliciting All Paddlesport Event Organizers

With this year’s paddling season drawing to a close – except for some die-hard paddlers that love breaking ice – it is time to think about next year.

IPC has an events calendar where we list all paddlesports-related events we become aware of. This also helps in promoting your event(s).

If you are a paddlesport event organizer, or know someone who is – whether a competition/race, a river cleanup, a paddling festival or any other event involving paddlesport – canoe/kayak/SUP/raft- on a river, lake,  bayou (ok – we may not have some here in Illinois) – please forward such information to

news@illinoispaddling.org – or to spconsult@comcast.net

We would like to compile a master list for next year’s events to publish in upcoming newsletters with details (so include background on – and details of – the event). Hopefully, we can also avoid having major events take place on the same weekend.

If you have any questions, please forward these to spconsult@comcast.net

Thank you – Sigrid Pilgrim, Director, PR & Marketing

2016 Des Plaines River Canoe And Kayak (& SUP) Marathon

Studying the race result board

By Don Mueggenburg



(I’ll bet even Ralph didn’t envision the race lasting this long.)

After a spring of November-like weather, the sunshine gods smiled on us. An almost perfect day (a perfect day would have seen my partner and I set a record time and win that “little man”). Water levels were good – not too fast as to be a danger to the less experienced – but quick enough for excellent finish times. In fact, the last boat was off the water almost an hour sooner than some other years.

No dams to portage, few, if any, spots to scrape the bottom of your boat. A gentle breeze kept us from getting overheated. After the race, there was good music and good food and the good fellowship of fellow paddlers– a good day for a picnic (and I especially enjoyed my friend Steve’s turkey – he is a master turkey chef).

Each year, we support an organization in some charitable endeavor that has to do with the river or with paddling. This year, over $300 was raised by our participants for the Chicago Voyageurs, an organization that helps at-risk youth with outdoor adventures.   We also invited some of the boys to paddle the minithon (no cost to them, of course) with their sponsors.

By the numbers –

About 650 people started the long race

Approximately 75 started the short race

Very few did not finish – maybe 10 boats

Robert Hartman of Holland, MI, had the fastest time – 2 hours 5 minutes in the Unlimited Kayak division, followed by Kiril Floriv of Countryside, IL, in kayak in the Open division, with a time of 2:14.

Fastest canoe was the team of Mark Koenig, Woodstock, IL, and Fritz Hansen, Burlington, WI, with a time of 2:22, followed by Neil Weisner-Hanks and Beth Schlueter, Oconomowoc, WI, at 2:24.

Mike Brumbaugh of Roseville, MN, finished the SUP in 2:47.

The largest class was the Men’s recreational Kayak, with 89 kayaks finishing the race. (There were additional recreational Kayaks in the Open and No Contest, as well as in the minithon.)

Ages – the oldest was listed as 127 and the youngest as 1 – I don’t think the 1-year-old paddled and the 127-year-old only felt like it after the race. There were at least five paddlers in their 80s who finished the race, with James Des Jardins the eldest at 86.

Eric Luth made his annual pilgrimage from Arizona, the furthest traveler.

Thanks to everyone who helped put on this event. The committee who met every month putting things together, the start line chair and his volunteers, the finish line volunteers, The RACES who supplied us with radio communications and spotters along the river, the Cook County and Lake County Forest Preserves for all their help.

But I want to recognize Everett Andrus and Eric Velasco who sat out in the hot sun all day spotting boats at the finish line. Maybe the toughest job of the day.

THANKS TO EVERYONE – SEE YOU AT NUMBER 60 in 2017: Sunday May 21.

(NOTE: We could really use a few more volunteers on race day – work at the start line, help the starter, spotters at the finish line to name a few. The board also welcomes input from participants and spectators. Please contact Jack Snarr or Al Pilgrim via the hotline, 847-604-2445, or email info@canoemarathon.com (contact me at donmuegg@at.net)

Two lucky winners
Two lucky winners
Brick oven pizza: For hungry paddlers at the finish
Brick oven pizza: For hungry paddlers at the finish

Kankakee River – Latest National Waterway

By Don Mueggenborg 

It took a while, but the Kankakee has been named a National Waterway.

The process started about 10,000 years ago when the melting glacier broke through the moraines holding it back from Lake Erie (wasn’t called Lake Erie then). A wall of water surged forward, carving out a wide valley and leaving a great wetland.

The wetland attacked many forms of wildlife – called by some the “Everglades of the North.” Through this wetland flowed a river. The natives called it the Aukiki or Theatiki or Kankakee.

The river flowed through Indiana and Illinois. A beautiful stream, clear water.

In the 1600’s and 1700’s, Voyageurs used the river as a highway. LaSalle and Tonti used this river as a main route between Montreal and Mackinaw Island to the Illinois River. A short, flat portage at South Bend the only obstacle, it would have been a national waterway, but we had no nation. Later in Indiana, it would become a hunting favorite for Presidents and dignitaries from Europe. In Illinois, the backwaters housed bank robbers and horse thieves.

Now, another 100 years later, the Kankakee River has been named a National Waterway. Most of the channelized portions in Indiana have been taken over by nature. Wooded banks, beaver, fish, deer and a good river to paddle. In Illinois, where the river was not channelized, there are more bends, and a faster current.

Unlike some major rivers, the Kankakee does not flow through many major urban areas, so it is often tree lined and natural.

I have paddled sections of the Kankakee in Indiana and the length of the river in Illinois.

Fun, scenic with public access points close enough to make a pleasant trip. As the river flows into Illinois, the current increases. Immediately, the river bends and curves.

My favorite section is above Momence. A paddle to the state line and back might take three hours – but if you start at the state line (car shuttle), it is a fast, good trip. The river meanders and bends, and sand bars at the bends will take up ½ the river. Read the river and enjoy.

The most popular section is from Bird Park in Kankakee to Warner Bridge, Kankakee State Park. Canoes, tubers float past. Some river reading will keep your feet dry. Neat island and sandstone cliffs along the way.

You can paddle the whole length of the river in both Indiana and Illinois. There are frequent public access sites.

CAUTION: Some laws you should observe.

Momence – no canoes on the island (access on east side of island)

Kankakee – you cannot portage at the dam (portage at the park a block or so before the dam – river left)

Wilmington – you cannot portage the dam (run the mill race river right and then portage down the hill)

The Kankakee meets the Des Plaines at Dresden, and becomes the Illinois River.


Shortly after we started canoe racing, my friend Dave (Peanut Butter) heard about a race on the Kankakee in Indiana. No racing canoes.

We brought our Sawyer Cruiser and immediately saw that we were in a different class than most of the boats. Aluminum canoes with young men in their late teens and early twenties were our competition.

A local “Boys” club had bought a voyageur canoe and were hoping to raise some money to pay off the purchase. The young men were either part of the club or alumni.

A la mans start – run across the parking lot – left us way behind. Shortly after the start, a boat dumped. We helped them and their canoe to shore, paddled downstream, and returned with their paddles. And within twenty minutes or so, we had passed everyone.

We were actually embarrassed, but apparently the spectators were not. At each bridge, spectators asked my wife, our pit crew, if the “old men” had come by yet (we were in our 40s). We would wait around bends for the other canoes so we did not finish too far ahead.

The finish was under a bridge on a rural road. A flat grassy area at the take-out.

1st place was a cash prize – $100. I took it, gave it to Dave, who counted it and gave it to the race sponsor.


Several years later, there was a re-enactment at the Kankakee Marsh County Park.

Things had changed – that rural road and grassy spot was now a nice county spot in the restored wetlands. Way to go, Indiana!

I saw a Park Ranger – a young man. “Years ago, there was a race on the river that ended here. Do they still have the race?” I asked.

The ranger replied. “We only held it one year and two old guys whipped us good!”

Then he added – “You’re one of them!”

And I felt good, not that he recognized me, but that one of the boys was now working as a park ranger to help preserve the river and wetlands, and that the state and county were working to preserve the area for the future.


Try Racing a Dragon

Some years ago, friends invited me to try Racing a Dragon! I’ve never paddled so hard in all my life. It took our team a total of 94 seconds to paddle the 300 meter course! The winning team did it in 20 seconds less! Dragon boat racing has its origin 2000 years ago when the poet warrior Chu Yuan threw himself into the Milo River. His devoted followers rushed to find his body, beating the drum to scare away the fish.

If you don’t feel like racing the dragon – go as a spectator – it’s a great show.

Enjoy – Sigrid 


Abe’s River Race 2016


Please join the Lincoln Heritage Water Trail Association on May 28th for this year’s Abe’s River Race, located on the Sangamon River near Petersburg. This 12.5 race / recreational paddle takes place each Memorial Day to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s involvement with the Sangamon River. Lincoln first navigated the swollen Sangamon by dugout canoe in the spring of 1831, just after the “Illinois Winter of the Deep Snow.” This trip led Lincoln to New Salem, near Petersburg, a spot that Lincoln would eventually call home for a number of years.

Please see www.lincolnheritagewatertrail.org for more details about race registration.

How Much Is It Worth to Win a Race?

By Don MueggenborgScan0001-4 (2)

Sauk Valley Race on the Rock River a few years ago. The water was up and the current was flowing rapidly.

My partner Tom and I looked over the competition. We might beat some of them, some of them might beat us. That is part of the fun of racing.

Then we spotted my friend Ed. He has been my nemesis for years (except when we are paddling together, then he still finishes ahead of me because he paddles in the bow). Been trying to beat him for years. He is a couple months older than me and has a better looking beard which makes me jealous.

Ed would be paddling with Linda. This should be a good race. Linda was probably the best woman paddler in Illinois at the time. I forgot about the other boats in the race – this could be fun.

Deep water – should be an advantage for us. Tom weighed about a quarter of a ton – well not quite that much, but he was big and strong. Ed was a lightweight and Linda probably never saw the 100 mark on a scale.

The Rock had a series of curves and bends just after the start line. The advantage of deep water vanished as Ed and Linda were able to cut the corners. If we followed, we were no longer in deep water and they had the advantage. If we stayed in the deep water, we were traveling further and they had they advantage.

First third of the race, they were out ahead of us – minute or maybe more.   Next third of the race, we were staying about the same distance behind them.

Deeper water – we started to gain. I called a “hut.”

As I threw the paddle from one hand to the other, the wind caught it – or I just plain missed it.   Paddle went flying —   DRAT (or words to that effect).

From my expletive – Tom knew what happened.   “You want to get it?”

“No!” I yelled. “Someone behind us will get it.” I reached for the spare paddle. We were gaining. We could get them!   Closer, closer.   We were on their wake!

Around the island and upstream about a block to the finish line. Our bow was past their stern. Couple hundred yards to go. We were on the inside, slightly less current. We were pushing as hard as we could – but so were they.

They cut over to the other shore as we stayed along the island.   We were lucky.   We inched ahead and sprinted as hard as we could.

We had braggin’ rights for the week – by a canoe length at most. (Were we the fastest boat on the river – probably not. Did we win our class – don’t remember. Not that important.)

Now – as each boat behind us finished – “Did you get my paddle?” “Did you get my paddle?”

Black paddle – dark water – wide river.

I just threw away $250 (cost of the paddle).


Epilogue – Ray spotted the paddle floating down past us – jumped into the water to give it CPR – Canoe Paddle Rescue. Ed took the paddle home with him and returned it to me the next week.

Embossed on the paddle were my name and address. Good sportsmanship, or was he rubbing it in that I was a clod – whatever – I appreciated it. Thanks Ed.

2016 Des Plaines River Marathon Participants to Support Chicago Voyagers

By Jack Snarr, Marathon Co-Chair


For each of the past several years, the Des Plaines River Canoe and Kayak Marathon has identified an accessory tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization with related interest in paddlesport and/or the preservation and recreational potential of the Des Plaines River. Marathon registrants have been encouraged to supplement their $22 registration fee with an additional $3 (or more) to benefit the designated organization. Included have been the Upper Des Plaines River Ecological Partnership, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services of Lake County, Openlands, the IPC Paddlers’ Patrol and Water TrailKeepers Programs, and Prairie Rivers Network. Each organization has thereby received a several hundred dollar contribution from Marathon participants.

Inspired this year by Bob Faber’s presentation at the 2015 IPC Annual Banquet/Meeting of the Chicago Voyagers (CV) Organization, the Marathon has identified CV as the 2016 target of these donations. Chicago Voyagers uses the outdoors as a tool to quickly and effectively impact inner city, at-risk youth. Engaging youth in activities such as canoeing (lake, river, wilderness and whitewater), camping, and environmental stewardship teaches them the importance of teamwork, of acting responsibly, and of communicating respectfully. It is hoped that such life lessons will empower the youth to stay in school, avoid unhealthy behaviors, and create a better future for themselves.

Moreover, the Voyagers are being encouraged to participate in the foreshortened, 5.25 mile Minithon option of the 2016 Marathon. To learn more about the organization, please take a moment to review their website for further insight at www.chicagovoyagers.org. Naturally, the Voyagers would welcome the volunteer assistance of individuals or paddling clubs in the enactment of their programs!