Home » Illinois Paddling Council Blog » Competition » Page 2

Category: Competition


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!

Long Distance Paddling Events



If the 18.5 miles of the Des Plaines Marathon (May 22 this year) are not long enough for you – participate in one of these events to test your stamina – or at least, be astonished that some paddlers can do this.

Friday, April 22 – to Sunday, April 24 – CAMPUS TO COAST – www.msuoc.org/c2c/ 

Starting in Wonch Park, Okemos, MI and ending in Grand Haven on the edge of Lake Michigan.  Campus to Coast (C2C160) is a paddle sport adventure race put on by the Michigan State University Outdoors Club. The race starts on MSU’s campus at the Rock (central part of campus), following the Red Cedar River into the Grand River and out through Grand Haven, finishing at Grand Haven State Park. The race is approximately 160 miles, with estimations of the fastest times being anywhere from 26-40 hours, depending on the river conditions, and 57 hours being the cut-off time. This race also contains 7 portages, along with one section where racers must “canoe line” a small section of fall over dams.  This race can only be competed in using kayaks, canoes, or a vessel that is strictly “man powered.”  Participants are from all over the U.S., as well as other BIG 10 Universities.

Saturday, June 11 – Texas Water Safari – http://www.texaswatersafari.org/

Described as the World’s Toughest Canoe RaceThe Safari is an annual race via the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers, from Aquarena Springs in the college town of San Marcos, to the shrimping village of Seadrift on the Texas coastline, a total distance of 260 miles. The first official race was held in 1963, and is run annually on the second Saturday of June.  It actually has a series of events – so be sure to check the calendar page for more details http://www.texaswatersafari.org/calendar/

Wednesday, June 29 – to Sunday, July 3 – Yukon River Quest – http://www.yukonriverquest.com/

Described as the “Race to the Midnight Sun,” this 444-mile wilderness adventure paddling race is held on the Yukon River, from Whitehorse to Dawson City, in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Held during the last week of June, the YRQ is the world’s longest annual canoe and kayak race. Paddlers race round-the-clock under a sky that never gets dark. There are just two mandatory rest stops – totaling 10 hours – over the course of the entire event. The Yukon River Quest draws participants from all over the world. In 2015, 57 teams from 12 countries started the race and 44 teams finished.

Saturday, July 30 – AuSable River Canoe Marathon – www.ausablecanoemarathon.org/

This is a non-stop canoe race that starts at night with a thrilling running-start to the river in Grayling, MI, and ends 120 miles later near the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, MI.  Contestants must navigate the narrow, winding upper stretch in total darkness, as well as stump-filled ponds and the blazing July sun in the lower stretch.  This race is not a recreational canoe float, but a professional, ultra-competitive race with the very best professional paddlers from around North and Central America. Before planning to participate, check the website for more details – this is not for beginners.

From one participant:

Throughout my life I have been a waterman. I have snorkeled, done scuba diving, fishing, rec. canoeing, surfing. When I started training for racing I had finally found a way that I could tie my love for the water in with mastering an artful craft. A race canoe is something that you can master. There is so much technique and skill involved you can always be improving. The AuSable Marathon is the ultimate proving ground for your hard work and dedication. You don’t have to be a top ten paddler to be a master of your boat. By L.j. Bourgeois      

For more AuSable Marathon pics, info, and videos:



Check each website for more information, pictures, and if you know of any other North American long distance paddling races, let us know and we’ll add them to the list.

Save the Date to Paddle The 59th Annual Des Plaines Canoe & Kayak Marathon And Minithon


dprm logoMay 22, 2016

More picnics are spoiled by weather reports than by the weather, wrote Don Mueggenborg (who has paddled every event but one since its starting) after last year’s event. Forecasts had everyone concerned – rain, high winds, lightning. Instead we had a great day. Overcast early with a slight mist and headwinds to cool the paddlers down.

More than seven hundred paddlers participated in 2015, including 37 in the shorter Minithon, with several SUPs finishing the whole course. Most paddlers came from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, but also from as far as Arizona, Florida, Nebraska and Texas. Everyone who finished the course received the coveted embroidered patch. New in 2015 was also the inclusion of the Des Plaines River map on the back of the t- shirts that brought many congratulatory comments, and will be on this year’s t-shirts as well.

The Des Plaines River Canoe and Kayak Marathon, founded in 1958 by Ralph Frese, is the second oldest continually held paddling competition in the United States. The course is 18½ miles on the beautiful and historic Des Plaines River in Northern Illinois. Numerous classes accommodate people of all ages, crafts, and skill levels, and a 5.25 mile, non-competitive Minithon offers a shorter option. First time participants, repeat paddlers, and serious competitors can all enjoy the excitement, challenge, and wonderful scenery that this historic event provides. Great music, good food, and camaraderie await everyone at the finish line.

Registration opens March 1 – early bird discount until April 15

For more details check out www.canoemarathon.com



Des Plaines River Marathon - at the put in
Photo by Rich Hodgkins

Calling All Women Paddlers!

Interested in a Women’s Outrigger Canoe Crew? Here are the details:

  • Looking to start a Women’s Outrigger Canoe crew for 2016. There are two goals in my plan:
    • Develop an outrigger canoe paddling program at Outrigger Chicago for beginners and advanced paddlers alike.
    • Field a crew of 6-9 women interested in competing at the Liberty Challenge OC race in NYC June 2016.
  • If you are interested in hearing more about either, please let me know. Or feel free to forward this message to any lady you know who might be. I’m going to try to hold some informational meetings soon so we can hit the ground running for the 2016 season!


Kristin Flentye