Home » Illinois Paddling Council Blog » News

Category: News


By Don Muggenborg

(There was at least one inflatable that started – got to Dam # 1.)


For results go to canoemarathon.com


Just a few comments about the 2017 race.


From the look on the faces of the paddlers at the finish line, they were happy and often tired – people enjoyed the race as always.  Having paddled the race for over 40 years, this was as much fun as any year (well, maybe it was more fun the year I beat Ed)


Good weather, good water, and good fellowship with other paddlers – what more could you ask for?


Well, we could have had less wind and more water in the Dam # 1 area


A couple comments from some of the racers:


Hi Don,


My family loves the Minithon option! We get a taste of the race excitement but it’s short enough that everyone crosses the finish line with cheers instead of tears. Calvin (4 years old) is a seasoned veteran and proudly shows off his 3 marathon patches.  Susan (10 months old) completed her first race with smiles and squeals of joy the whole way.  It’s such a great way for my husband and me to share our love of canoeing and the outdoors with our kids.  We’re already looking forward to next year’s race!

Thank you for everything you do to keep this race going year after year!

-Christy Dahl




The Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon was fun.  I like being in the competition in the outdoors on the river.  At the end of the race it is the best because they have food, drinks, chips and a board that tells you your race time.  It was fun to meet people and see all the different boats.  




Great race as always Don!

I think this was my 6th time but first time on a SUP. A first for my 18 year old daughter, Stephanie, though she has done the race several times too, this was the first time under her own power! It’s a long way and long time to be standing on a SUP, but we did it!


The river tried to toss me two or three times when my skeg caught a submerged log! But I managed to stay on board.


It’s a different and very fun experience on a SUP, standing gives you a better perspective on the scenery. But you do have to duck more often!


We never stopped to take a break! But we were still slow, just enjoying the event and spending time with my daughter.


Thanks again for all your hard work and the other volunteers.




(I remember Stephanie as a 9 year old paddling the whole race in a kayak with her dad paddling next to her – ed note)



As far as I know, the only problem was that a paddle was lost – if anyone knows where it might have gone, let us know, please.


The food at the finish line was excellent and the band added to the fun at the finish.


About 900 people paddled or worked the marathon – numbers are going up.  If you missed this year – join us for even more fun in 2018.


Over the years some things have changed, but much has not changed.


SUP –  16 Men and 6 Women stood up and paddled the whole course.  Way to go – I would have to sit down somewhere along the line if I tried it.


Recreational Kayaks – 52 women and 85 men signed up for the recreational class – add sea kayaks, K2’s, and kayaks paddled in the Open Class and the No Contest and Minithon –  probably the most kayaks ever in the race – a lot of people fanning the air with every stroke.


Maybe that is why we had the wind.  By the time the last boats finished, it was a force to be reckoned with.  (blame the kayaks for stirring up the air.)


Eimantas and Arunas Dabauskas set the pace with a time of 2 hours, 11 miniutes in a K-2 for the fastest time of the day.  Kiril Floriv was the fastest 1 person boat at 2:21.  They hardly got their money’s worth.  Good job guys, I admire your ability.


Without a head wind perhaps they could have broken the 2 hour barrier.  And Kiril has a new challenge.


The river was free of dams for the first time in over 100 years – some fast water where Ryerson dam had been (fun) and slow water above where Dam # 1 (not fun)  was but no scrapping bottom at Hollister or portaging.  I kinda missed looking for the chute at Hollister, but not much.


Paddler in boat # 60 was 60 years old.  Paddlers in boat #  46 were doing their 46th marathon.


Ages of paddlers ranged from 1 year old (well, she really did not paddle) – some 7 year olds may have helped their folks – to my friend Ed at 83 (and he beat me in age too!)


Paddlers came from as far away as New York, Arizona, and Kentucky as well as all our neighboring Midwestern states.


It would be nice to see more juniors paddling – that is one change not for the better.  Women competition paddlers are also missing.  Of course, the women may be paddling kayaks.


We could use a few more volunteers at the start and at the finish line.  Consider paddling and working as a volunteer before or after the race.  Pay isn’t much (t-shirt) but you will have our thanks.


We are also looking for any suggestions to make the race better, let us hear from you.



A behind the scenes look at what it takes to make it happen again… by Sigrid Pilgrim


For 60 years now, the Des Plaines River Canoe and Kayak Marathon in Illinois has attracted many hundreds of canoes and kayaks for the 18.5 mile stretch from Oak Springs Road in Libertyville to Dam #2 in Prospect Heights. Founded originally by Ralph Frese to introduce his boy scout troop to the beauty of the Des Plaines River, the event has become a “must participate” for many paddlers from all around the country, if for no other reason than to get the coveted embroidered patch or for the first place winners, the unique voyageur statue.


My husband Alan is co-chair of this event that happens only because a small, very dedicated group of volunteers for years has given many hours of their time to make sure no detail of the event is overlooked. As the sometimes willing sounding board, listening to Alan voice frustration about this, that, or the other aspect of the event that still hasn’t been nailed down, confirmed, reconfirmed, settled, or figured out, sometimes just a few days before race date, I sat down with him with pen and paper and asked him “Tell me, what does it take to put on the Marathon?”


So here is a summary of what it will take again to have nearly 800 paddlers participate in the 61th Annual Des Plaines Canoe and Kayak Marathon to be held May 20, 2018:


The Organizing Committee consisting of two co-chairs, secretary/treasurer, registrar, safety, start line coordinators, marketing and outreach members meet once a month to coordinate all that follows:


  • Contract with SignMeUp.com firm that takes care of electronic registration (which then requires umpteen emails sent by the co-chairs on alternating days to remind tandem paddlers that each needs to sign the waiver!)
  • Coordination with the Lake County Forest Preserve District (start line) for traffic control and parking, plus making sure the upper section of the river is clear of debris for the race
  • Confirmation with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the major sponsor, (finish line) to provide for traffic control, parking, shuttle buses, port-a-potties, entertainment and police, and also ensuring the lower section of the river is clear of debris for the race
  • Coordinating with Lake County for “sweep” paddlers from Start Line to Lake Cook Road, as well as providing a “sweep” paddler on the Cook County portion of the race from Lake Cook Road to the Finish line
  • Coordinating on course safety with 27 RACES, a communication team to be stationed on bridges to ensure safety of paddlers and pass on paddling times
  • Food vendors at end of race are researched and contracted for
  • Contracting with the official Timer
  • Arranging for the tents to shelter race headquarters for tracking race times, displays, t-shirt sales and any organization wanting to promote their activities
  • Renewing contracts for storage locker rental to house buoys, race result boards, water coolers, left-over t-shirts, and lots more no one has room for in a garage
  • Our design/artwork chair provides a unique design each year for the annual postcard, patch and t-shirt
  • Ordering patches, trophies, medals, t-shirts


And that is just the start, because without the actual people being part of it, none of that would be needed.  So here’s a list of tasks our volunteers annually give of their time and talent:


  • Event logo design for promo cards, t-shirts and patch by professional graphic designer (free)
  • Race registrar assigning start-times prior to race day
  • Saturday event set-up activities
  • Check-in registrars
  • Signage postings
  • Parking and shuttle coordinators
  • Buoy placers
  • Race starter
  • Info station staff
  • Safety boaters
  • Timers
  • Race time postings on timing boards
  • Patch, T-shirt distribution and sales
  • Webmaster
  • Mailing of trophies/medals/t-shirts not picked up on race day


And this is what your registration fees cover: Rental of storage locker, Supplies and Signage for Start and Finish Lines;  Website; RACES – Communication Group; Boat numbers; Trophies, Medals, Patches, T-shirts;  Printing and mailing of promo materials; Insurance; Volunteer lunches; Generator and Gas; Tents; T-shirts given to volunteers and other key personnel as a  “thank-you”; Port-a-Potties for the Start Line.


So that’s the summary of what it takes to put on the Des Plaines Canoe & Kayak Marathon; I may even have left out a few “needs to get done” too. I hope that all paddlers reading this will reward the many volunteers’ efforts by participating in next year’s event, May 20, 2018, to say


For more information on the event and a list of this year’s finish times, please go to



If you would like to become involved – we would love more volunteers.


By Sigrid Pilgrim


After being at flood stage barely a week before the race, the river dropped to less than 3 feet, making the former Ryerson Dam, rechristened the Ryerson Ripple a shallow hazard for any kayak or SUP with a fixed rudder or fin. So paddlers were urged to portage at a wide soft muddy flat! But rescue came thanks to volunteers who placed the red, gray and brown carpets, much appreciated by all who used them.

777 paddlers and passengers started the 18.5 mile or the 5.25 mile courses – both of which were threatened just 48 hours before by a major log jam across the whole river. Thanks to the combined effort of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago, the Illinois Department of Transportation and expedited by the Forest Preserves of Cook County, the race was able to be held.

There are way too many volunteers to thank who are making this event possible. So I’d like to revert back to an article that I wrote a few years ago: What it takes to put on the Marathon

But when the wonderful comments from the participants come in, it’s all worth the effort.  Here are just a few that race organizers received.

  • After my 5am paddle of the course on race day to ensure that the previous evening’s storms had not downed a new tree, I was at the Ryerson portage all day until the last boats came through. Then we swept the stragglers through to the finish line, with one exhausted paddler saying “I’ll do it all over again” – Gareth Stevens.
  • Thank you for this great canoe race and thank you for the opportunity to be part of the many canoe and kayak participants.  It is big privilege for me to be competitor in one of the oldest canoe races in North America.  Please accept this small donation. Kiril Florov.
  • Hans and Fritz Zimmerman have the boat number equal to their number of years raced each year.  This year they were number 46.
  • Oldest racer was Ed Hahn at 83yrs 5 months (beat Don Mueggenborg by 5 months).
  • Youngest (did not actually paddle) was1. Several 7 year olds were registered as paddler number two.
  • A paddler named John has done the race 20 times and celebrated his 60th birthday by racing boat number 60 in the 60th annual running.
  • Several long time participants volunteered to help on race day.  Many work at the Start Line until the last few heats, when they get in their boats and run the river.
  • And one more comment: “If I had a bucket list – this event would be on it”.

And for the 61st Annual Des Plaines River Canoe & Kayak Marathon – May 20, 2018

The 2 Hour barrier has yet to be broken

For all race results go to www.canoemarathon.com


Not Too Late to Register for the Des Plaines Canoe and Kayak (and SUP) Marathon

By Don Mueggenborg

“Ralphs” waiting for their recipients

One of the oldest and longest-running “races” in North America, and one of the largest, the Des Plaines River Marathon will be starting for the 60th year on May 21, 2017.

The “original” race course runs from Oak Spring Road in Libertyville to Dam # 2 Woods in Mt Prospect – just short of 20 miles if you paddle a straight line. There is a short “Minithon” that runs for about 5 miles and ends at the same place as the long course.

Some of the fastest and best paddlers in the Midwest race the course in pursuit of “Ralph,” the trophy shaped like a voyageur and nicknamed Ralph for Ralph Frese, founder or the Race. Watch them as they flash past you, admire their technique and fitness.

HOWEVER, with 22 classes, there is something for everyone. Some of the “average” paddlers will also come home with “Ralph.”

Most of us paddle:

  • Because we like to paddle and share the camaraderie with 600 other paddlers on the river and at the start and finish line
  • Because we want to beat our friend, neighbor, brother, or just anybody else
  • Because we want to prove that we can do it
  • Because it is a beautiful river with its tree-lined banks, and it is a good way to enjoy nature
  • Because we want to show off our neat t-shirts and tell stories of our adventures

This year the course will be DAM FREE for the first time in over 100 years.

Go to the NEW WEBSITE – canoemarathon.com to learn more about the race and enter on-line (or copy a paper registration).   (You can register at the start line on race day – either at the start of the long race or the minithon – but it will cost you more and you probably will not be able to get a tee-shirt)

SEE YOU ON THE RIVER OR AT THE FINISH LINE (eating one of those great sandwiches that our venders serve)

Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum

Just in case some of our readers may not know – there is a great canoe museum in Spooner, Wisconsin. And, coming up on May 27, is the 2017 Canoe & Wooden Boat Show. Yes – we know – many of you paddle the rotomolded plastic kayaks, SUPs, or fiberglass canoes – but there is always room for some beauty. So check out the event and if you are the lucky owner of one of those beautiful boats – call the museum and see if you can display it. Have fun!

Get Ready For the 2017 Canoe & Wooden Boat Show Sat May 27

WCHM invites participants for its eighth annual Canoe & Wooden Boat Show, to be held in conjunction with Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Day on May 27, 2017. This one day free event will also include museum tours and open house, the unveiling of new displays, ongoing activities in the canoe workshop, and live music and food and beverage in the beer garden. Now is the time to make plans to be an exhibitor and display your canoe, wooden boat, or other canoe related items of interest.

Wooden boats of all shapes, sizes, and designs are welcome, both classic and modern, as well as all kinds of classic and vintage water and paddling related items. Whether you have items to sell, or you just have something to show off, there will be many interested folks attending this free event. Exhibitors can include individuals, commercial entities, non-profits, authors, government agencies, educators, crafters, and businesses whose products or services are relevant to boaters and wooden boats and canoes.

Booth space is free, and reserving a space is easy. You can download a booth reservation form from the WCHM website at www.WisconsinCanoeHeritageMuseum.org, or request one by emailing to info@wisconsincanoeheritagemuseum.org or calling 715-635-2479.

Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Day is produced by the WCHM each year on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.


How Many Miles Do You Want to Paddle?

From a short HOP to a 100-MILE MARATHON – you can do it all on the PECATONICA

  • 1/2 mile – Tutty Crossing (kayak launch) to Hancock Marina (concrete ramp)
  • 3 mile – Tutty Crossing (kayak launch) to VFW (concrete ramp)
  • 6 mile – Brewster Landing (concrete ramp) to McConnell Bobtown Landing (EZ Dock)
  • 8 mile – McConnell Bobtown Landing (EZ Dock) to McNeils Damascus Landing (EZ Dock)
  • 12 mile – Browntown, WI (concrete ramp) to Brewster Landing (concrete ramp)
  • 14 mile – Brewster Landing (concrete ramp) to McNeils Damascus Landing (EZ Dock) – stop over – MBL
  • 14 mile – McNeils Damascus Landing (EZ Dock) to Tutty Crossing (kayak launch) -stop over – **WBT
  • 17 mile – McNeils Damascus Landing (EZ Dock) to VFW (concrete ramp) -stop over – **WBT, TC, HM
  • 18 mile – Browntown, WI (concrete ramp) to McConnell Bobtown Landing (EZ Dock) – stop over – BL
  • 22 mile – McConnell Bobtown Landing (EZ Dock) to Tutty Crossing (kayak launch) -stop over – MDL, **WBT
  • 25 mile – McConnell Bobtown Landing (EZ Dock) to VFW (concrete ramp) -stop over – MDL, **WBT, TC, HM
  • 26 mile – Browntown, WI (concrete ramp) to McNeils Damascus Landing (EZ Dock) – stop over – BL, MBL
  • 28 mile – Brewster Landing (concrete ramp) to Tutty Crossing (kayak launch) -stop over – MBL, MDL, **WBT
  • 31 mile – Brewster Landing (concrete ramp) to VFW (concrete ramp) -stop over – MBL, MDL, **WBT, TC, HM
  • 40 mile – Browntown, WI (concrete ramp) to Tutty Crossing (kayak launch) -stop over – BL, MBL, MDL, **WBT
  • 43 mile – Browntown, WI (concrete ramp) to VFW (concrete ramp) -stop over – BL, M

THE ULTIMATE – 100 MILER — Browntown, WI  to MacTown Forest Preserve near Rockton, IL

Rumor has it that an IPC racer wants to do the 100 Mile Challenge in ONE day!

Abbreviations Key:

BL = Brewster’s Landing

MBL = McConnell Bobtown Landing

MDL = McNeils Damascus Landing

WBT = Wes Block Trailhead

TC = Tutty’s Crossing

HM = Hancock Marina

Link to the Google map to show all the locations:


Ralph Frese Memorial Paddle April 8

By Sigrid Pilgrim

About 40 paddlers braved the low temperature, high and swift water on the North Branch of the Chicago River from below the Willow Road Dam at the Skokie Lagoons to Linne Woods on Dempster.

This event is now sponsored by the Forest Preserves of Cook County http://fpdcc.com/  who provided shuttle service, granola bars, water and many staff to make sure only experienced paddlers would venture onto the water. THANK YOU JUSTIN and everyone at FPCC!  And, THANK YOU also to the ten paddling guides from the Friends of the Chicago River http://www.chicagoriver.org/ who contributed  their skills as safety boaters. Three members from OctaneRichMedia http://octanerichmedia.com/ also were present to record footage for their upcoming film about MR CANOE – RALPH FRESE.

Watch this newsletter for further info about the release of the film later this year. AND plan to participate in another RALPH FRESE (sort of Memorial) event – May 21 – the 60th Annual Des Plaines River Canoe & Kayak Marathon and Minithon www.canoemarathon.com

And now a small plea: If you are an experienced boater – the organizers of the Des Plaines River Canoe & Kayak Marathon are still looking for paddlers willing to help out as safety boaters – but note – NO MORE DAMS ON THE RIVER. Please contact Al Pilgrim if you would be interested and feel capable of being a safety boater – apilgrim@comcast.net

Abe’s River Race

ln Heritage Water Trail

Petersburg, Illinois

Join us July 15th for the 5th annual running of the Abe’s River Race!

Paddlers will have the opportunity to explore approximately 13.5 miles of the lower Sangamon River as it flows north from Sangamon County past Lincoln’s New Salem Historic Site to Petersburg, Illinois.

  • Registrations can be made online at getmeregistered.com. Registration may be completed in person on the day of the race; however, your Abe’s Race t-shirt may be unavailable in your preferred size. Cost is $30.00 per paddler.
  • Race staff will be at the Irwin Bridge launch site at 7:00 am Saturday to receive your equipment.
  • Shuttles depart Riverbank Lodge at 9:00 am. Please provide yourself sufficient time to drop your equipment off at the launch site and complete your registration and sign-in before 9:00 am.
  • Paddlers should be prepared to launch at 10:00 am and plan to arrive at the finish, Lincoln’s Riverside Park in Petersburg (next to Riverbank Lodge) no later 3:00 pm.
  • Paddler Packets will be distributed post race as paddlers check back in to the registration center at Riverbank Lodge.   Your bib tag will be collected and used for prize drawings after the awards are presented.
  • Unique awards will be presented for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places in all represented divisions. 
  • Target time for announcement of race results is 1:00pm, but is dependent upon the finishing times for all racing divisions.  Please see flyer below and www.lincolnheritagewatertrail.org for more details.
  • **NEW** Cash awards for the fastest overall time in all adult divisions ($100); fastest youth/youth team in either 18 and under Tandem or Adult and child 12 and under ($50); and best “Spirit of Abe” team or individual ($50). YOU MUST RACE TO WIN!

The 2017 Abe’s River Race will include 11 racing divisions:

  • Canoe Men’s (C1-M)
  • Canoe Women’s (C1-W)
  • Canoe Men’s Double (C2-M)
  • Canoe Women’s Double (C2-W)
  • Canoe Mixed Couples (C2-MX)
  • Kayak Men’s Single (K1-M)
  • Kayak Women’s Single (K1-W)
  • Kayak Open Double (K2)
  • Wooden Boat (WB) – competitors in this division cannot compete in others
  • Youth Canoe/Kayak Tandem – 18 and under (YT18)
  • Youth Canoe/Kayak Tandem – 1 adult + 1 youth 12 and under (YT12)

Race flyer: 2017ARRflyer 052217

Race details on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/130475303756096/

St. Charles Canoe Club’s 44th Annual Current Buster Canoe and Kayak Race

The St. Charles Canoe Club will host its 44th annual Current Buster Canoe and Kayak Race.  This long-standing iconic event will take place on May 7th, and has seen local, regional, national, and Olympic champions, as well as “first time” paddlers to the beautiful Fox River Valley.  Starting at Pottawatomie Park near downtown St. Charles, the race is nine miles long, four and a half miles upstream and four and a half back, with unique “S” curve buoy turns at the finish line area.

For the “relaxed racer,” there is a shorter six mile course up and back; don’t be afraid of the upstream part, because you can paddle near the shore line where there is hardly any current, making for an easy passage.  C1 and K1 races are in the morning and C2, as well as rec. kayaks and canoes in the afternoon.

See our web page for more detail: http://www.stcharlescanoeclub.com/.  You can also find us on facebook.

So, don’t be afraid – come on out and enjoy the Fox River.  This is also a good way to get ready for the Des Plaines and Mid-American canoe races later.

Karl Teske – St. Charles Canoe Club