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The Newest Best Tactic for Reaching the Un-Reachables

Logo of Water Sports FoundationA small non-profit is making bold moves to reduce senseless paddlesports casualties

For more than five years, I’ve been trying to learn exactly how so many people perish while enjoying paddlesports.  According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics report, 613 Americans died while boating.  Of them, 167 died while participating in canoeing, kayaking, standup-paddleboarding, row-boating and on inflatables.  While overall boating deaths have declined for three straight years, paddlesports deaths have increased!  

By comparison, paddlesports doesn’t involve high rates of speed, spinning propellers, dangerous carbon monoxide or flammable fluids like its recreational powerboat cousin, yet horrifically, nearly one-out-of-every-three boating deaths are paddlers. 

With the help of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Water Sports Foundation determined that, of paddlesports deaths, nearly 75% of paddlers had less than 100 hours of experience (when level of experience was known) and the figure remains just below 45% for deaths where the paddler had less than 10 hours of experience.  

This information supports the theory that the majority of paddlesports accidents and deaths occur with paddlers who have very little paddling experience.  It makes sense, right?  More experienced paddlers understand the inherent risks involved in paddlesports and they mitigate them.   It’s probably also true that, in general, more experienced paddlers visit paddlesports pro shops, are members of paddling clubs and enjoy paddlesports media content. 

But newcomers to the sport who have not yet joined a club or subscribed to paddlesports content are nearly impossible to reach.   In fact, one recreational boating safety specialist refers to them as the “un-reachables.”

Over the past ten years, paddlesports has seen explosive growth, especially in kayaking and stand-up-paddleboarding.  According to the Outdoor Foundation’s most recent Outdoor Participation Report, in 2018, 34.9 million Americans participated in paddlesports.  This figure represents a 26.9% increase over 2010 participants, which were measured at 27.5 million.  

Much of this growth has been fueled by relatively inexpensive kayaks and SUP’s being sold through discount big box and club stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Tractor Supply, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco, just to name a few.  

Earlier in the decade, as manufacturers found ways to mass-produce kayaks at low price points, the big box and club stores saw an opportunity to cash-in by selling them.  It’s not absurd to think that many of these purchases were made on an impulse decision to buy and no research was involved.  

The problem is that millions of new paddlesports participants were fed onto our waterways each year with no instruction on safety such as, understanding the U.S. Coast Guard carriage requirements including the need for an approved life jacket, the importance of taking a safe paddling course or, simply understanding the inherent risks of paddlesports. 

For more than ten years the Water Sports Foundation (WSF) has been a recreational boating safety outreach partner with the U.S. Coast Guard and since 2011, the WSF has received more than seven million dollars in non-profit federal grants.  The funding is specifically designed for outreach campaigns that are designed to increase awareness of safer boating and paddling practices.  During the period, nearly 200 video PSA’s were developed and distributed by America’s most popular boating and paddling media companies producing nearly one billion media impressions. 

Most recently, the WSF embarked on a new safety crusade to invite executives of America’s top retailers to join the conversation on paddlesports safety.  On June 8, 2020, forty-four letters were sent to top executives and board of directors’ members of ten of the nation’s largest re-sellers of recreational paddlesports equipment including stores that you recently shopped.  They include Academy Sports & Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops, BJ’s Wholesale, Cabela’s, Costco Wholesale, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dunham’s Athleisure, Sam’s Club, Tractor Supply, and Walmart.

The letter was co-signed by five independent recreational safety organizations including the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), BoatUS, the American Canoe Association (ACA), the Life Jacket Association, and the WSF.   

The letter includes a supporting quote from Verne Gifford, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Recreational Boating Safety Division Chief who said, “Our direct-to-consumer outreach campaigns are changing the boating culture and in recent years they’ve helped to reduce the number of fatalities, but newcomers to paddling who have not yet joined a club, an association or subscribed to paddle sports content are very difficult to reach. Having retail partners that are willing to help inform new paddlers of basic safety knowledge would be extremely helpful for our continuing efforts to reduce casualties.” 

The letter goes on to share details on the number of America’s paddlesports deaths and then encourages the retailer to join the safety conversation and to help reduce senseless deaths.  See the entire letter on Facebook.com.

Results of the effort are not yet compiled as tracking notifications of delivery have only recently been received.  The WSF has high hopes that one day, representatives of the world’s largest kayak and SUP retail establishments will get involved and help develop solutions that avoid senseless paddlesports deaths.  The campaign’s internal motto is “Repeat Customers are Good for Business!”  With some luck and a little help from others, perhaps this will be the year that the trend in paddlesports deaths will be reversed.

For more information or to join the fight to reduce senseless paddlesports casualties, please contact Jim Emmons, Non-profit Outreach Grants Director at the Water Sports Foundation, 407-719-8062.

 

Recreate Responsibly on the Fabulous Fox! Water Trail

bow of kayak in waterDuring the past several weeks, we have been advised to get outside regularly for fresh air and exercise while abiding by public health guidelines and logical restrictions to our beloved public open spaces. As these restrictions are gradually lifted, let’s celebrate being able to freely enjoy the outdoors!

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in changes to our routines and limited our options as we navigate our day-to-day lives. According to the Emotional Well-Being During COVID-19 Pandemic brochure posted on the Kane County Health Department website, there are “normal physical, emotional, mental and behavioral reactions to the abnormal situation of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Being outside can have a variety of physical and mental benefits and help us cope with the “abnormal situation” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While we should always focus on our mental and physical health, we can’t forget about the economic health of our local communities! Locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue and resources back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.  Support local restaurants and grocery stores by picking up a healthy meal for your trip.  Who isn’t hungry after walking, biking or paddling?  A visit to a historical/cultural site can be a nice compliment to an outdoor activity. There are many businesses and historical/cultural opportunities within walking distance of public open spaces throughout Kane County. So, go outside and give your senses a treat. Watch the seasons change; listen to the birds; smell the blooming flowers; touch the bark on the trees. Smile and laugh as you enjoy the benefits of being outdoors!

One of Kane County’s greatest open space assets is the Fox River. Not only is the Fox River a significant linkage within the green infrastructure network; municipalities have recognized the Fox River as an open space and community amenity by acquiring riverfront acreage and designing river walks to link housing, parks, forest preserves, shops, offices and restaurants in their downtowns.

Stakeholders along the entire length of the Fox River from the headwaters in Wisconsin to the confluence with the Illinois River in Ottawa, Illinois are developing the Fabulous Fox! Water Trail to provide suitable access for the public to enjoy quiet and active recreation, scenic beauty, abundant wildlife, and historical and cultural features. 

In addition to information about safety, paddlers can find printable maps of 14 segments of the Fox River; information about amenities and the over 80 access sites along the River, making it easy to plan a trip.

Consider a paddling trip on the Fox River, but before you venture out, please follow the six guidelines offered by the Recreating Responsibly Coalition:

reminders for safe recreating during pandemicFabulous Fox Water Trail Logo

A New Canoe/Kayak Launch is in the future for DuPage!

Image of Graue MillBy Connie Schmidt 

There is a proposal for a dam removal project on Salt Creek at Fullersburg Woods. Over the past 18 months, the DuPage River Salt Creek Work Group (DRSCWG) has been preparing a Master Plan for Salt Creek at Fullersburg, which includes dam removal, and over a mile of stream restoration. The draft Master Plan is now complete and they are ready to present it to the public and solicit comments . 

There will be two live webinars on July 7 at 7 pm and July 9 at 11 am to view the presentation for the upgrades. Registration is required and can be done through the www.restoresaltcreek.org website.  If anyone cannot attend, the webinars will be recorded and posted on the RestoreSaltCreek website for viewing later.  

In addition, contacting the Forest Preserve of DuPage board of Commissioners is important.  They are the decision makers on this project as they own the property.  Here is a link for them: https://www.dupageforest.org/our-board/board-commissioners  

There are many benefits to removing the dam: improving water quality in Salt Creek, restoring fish and macroinvertebrate biodiversity, increasing access to recreational and educational opportunities, and saving taxpayers millions of dollars through this cost-effective approach to improving water quality and stream habitats. A canoe/kayak launch is planned along the river at this point as well.  

It is important to know that the historic Graue Mill and its operations will be preserved; and in fact, arguably enhanced with improved aesthetics from stream bank restoration and the planned additional amenities such as a canoe/kayak launch that will attract more people to the site. 

This project is part of the DRSCWG’s Special Condition and is the last project remaining on the TMDL Alternative Plan (Dam removals at Churchill Woods and Oak Meadows are already completed). It is very difficult to see how a satisfactory fish population can be established on Salt Creek while the Graue dam remains intact. 

You can visit (and share) the www.restoresaltcreek.org website for additional information. 

In addition, please go to this site and sign a petition for this project to be completed.  https://act.sierraclub.org/actions/Illinois?actionId=AR0272531 

News Release: New Paddlecraft Safety Effort Starts at the Water’s Edge

stop sign with pfd; always wear your life jacket
USCGA Safety Sign

Canoeists and kayakers may soon see a red safety sign posted at launch ramps and other water access areas across the country. The new safety sign is part of an ongoing effort to reduce the number of paddle sport fatalities.  USCG Recreational Boating Statistics show that, between 2013 and 2018, an average of 133 paddlers died each year – nearly a quarter of all boating deaths.  The vast majority of these paddlers were not wearing a lifejacket and drowned.    

The sign resembles a stop sign and carries a simple message – Stop. Always Wear Your Life Jacket.  “The purpose of this program is to remind paddlers that the single most important factor in preventing drowning is to wear an appropriate life jacket,” said Robert E. Kumpf, of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.  

The Coast Guard Auxiliary, the National Safe Boating Council, the Water Sports Foundation, and regional paddling organizations have worked together to promote paddlecraft safety. For more information about the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s paddlecraft safety programs please visit the Recreational Boating Safety Outreach Directorate’s website by clicking the link.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian component of the U.S. Coast Guard and supports the Coast Guard in nearly all mission areas. The Auxiliary was created by Congress in 1939. For more information, please visit www.cgaux.org 

Recreational Boating Statistics

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Coast Guard has released its 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics Report, revealing that there were 613 boating fatalities nationwide in 2019, a 3.2 percent decrease from 2018.

From 2018 to 2019, the total number of accidents increased 0.6 percent (4,145 to 4,168), and the number of non-fatal injured victims increased 1.9 percent (2,511 to 2,559).

Alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2019, accounting for over 100 deaths, or 23 percent of total fatalities.

The report also shows that in 2019:
• The fatality rate was 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, which tied as the second lowest rate in the program’s history. This rate represents a 1.9 percent decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
• Property damage totaled about $55 million.
• Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and alcohol use ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

Where the cause of death was known, 79 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 86 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Capt. Scott Johnson, chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety at Coast Guard Headquarters, cited one case in November, in which a party of eight in Indiana attempted to cross the White River in a 14-ft boat. Overloaded, it capsized sending occupants into the water. Five perished from drowning as a result, including a 6-year old child. None of the victims were wearing a life jacket.

“It’s critical for boaters to wear a life jacket at all times because it very likely will save your life. Ensure that it is serviceable, properly sized, and correctly worn.” Johnson noted that sometimes victims had not fastened their life jacket properly, or had not replaced the expired cartridge in their inflatable life jacket. In one case, the cartridge had been modified, making it ineffective as a lifesaving device.

Where boating instruction was known, 70 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction. The Coast Guard recommends that all boaters take a boating safety course that meets the National Boating Education Standards prior to getting out on the water.

The most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft, and cabin motorboats. Where vessel type was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were open motorboats (48 percent), kayaks (14 percent), and personal watercraft (8 percent).

The Coast Guard reminds all boaters to boat responsibly on the water: wear a life jacket, take a boating safety course, attach the engine cut-off switch, get a free vessel safety check, and boat sober.

“We praise our boating safety partners,” said Johnson. “Together we strive to reduce loss of life, injuries and property damage by increasing the knowledge and skill of recreational boaters.”

Little Calumet River Cleanup Video

Check out this video about the Little Calumet River Cleanup!

https://youtu.be/_zfoc_kjkaw

Michael Taylor, Steward of the Little Calumet River in Illinois had a busy day at Kickapoo Woods. First, he was co-hosting the cleanup along with the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Openlands, and the Illinois Paddling Council. Later in the day he lead free kayak and canoe training for residents from around the Riverdale area.

The Little Calumet River has a west and an east arm. Kickapoo Woods borders it’s west arm in Riverdale. The river flows over 100 miles through the towns of Portage, Lake Station, Gary, Highland, Griffith, Munster, and Hammond, and in Illinois – South Holland, Dolton, Lansing, Calumet City, Harvey, Riverdale, Phoenix, Dixmoor, Burnham, and Blue Island. https://fpdcc.com/places/locations/ki…

A presentation of Calumet Films, video by Most Visual. http://mostvis.com

To Cancel or Not to Cancel – That is the Question

By Sigrid Pilgrim

My husband, Alan, is Co-Chair of the Des Plaines River Canoe & Kayak Marathon (DPRM). The advent of the Corona pandemic, social distancing, stay-at-home orders, the closing of the lakefront, playgrounds and more, caused a week-long agonizing back-and-forth discussion by the DPRM board whether to maintain registration for the event or to cancel it completely – which was the ultimate painful decision.

The Forest Preserves of Cook County also announced the cancellation of all planned events, including the Ralph Frese Memorial Trip on the North Branch of the Chicago River scheduled for early May. The Prairie State Canoeists Club also announced cancellation of all planned trips.

As disappointing to us paddlers as these cancellations are, I hope we still can enjoy our sport later this year when the stay-at-home order is gradually lifted and individually – not in groups – we can take our boat to a river or lake. We can be thankful that our sport allows us to enjoy paddling away from crowds, even if our favorite “crowd-events” are cancelled.

Let’s Go Paddling the (Dam) Fox River

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By Don Mueggenborg

There are a total of 13 dams on the Fox in Illinois – most are easy portages.

As long as you use some sense, rivers are a good way to keep social distance and enjoy nature. The Fox is the longest and deepest river of all the fine rivers in the collar counties.  Along the way, you will pass parks and forest preserves, some beautiful homes, and historic buildings.

The Fox is really three different types of river. There are pools of deeper water. There are sections where there are ripples where you have to navigate to find the best channel (the part I like best). And finally, there is one of the most scenic rivers in the Midwest.

1) Stay away from the upper Fox- the Chain of Lakes – in the summer time when canoes and kayaks seem to be fair game for the power boaters and jet skis. (To be fair, they are either ignorant of the danger they pose or are too drunk.)

2) The dams. Paddle from pool to pool (good way to use the dams).

John Duer (sp) Kane Co. Forest Preserve off Rt 31 to St. Charles – (take out Ferson Creek (rt) or Pottawatamie Park (left)
St. Mary’s Park, St. Charles to Geneva (take/portage way river left)
Geneva to Batavia (take out Batavia Boat Club river left or portage river (go rt of island)
Batavia to North Aurora (take out/portage river right)
North Aurora to Aurora (easiest take-out on island)

3) The ripples (I like the challenge of having to read the river.)
Algonquin to Dundee (river rt at dam) or Voyageur landing
South Elgin (park river left, block south of highway) to John Duer (stay way right at foot bridge)
Oswego to Yorkville to Silver Springs State Park to Shuh Shuh Gah Canoe launch (off Whittfield Rd – Kendall Co FPD)

There is a whitewater course in Yorkville that you might want to run instead of portage (but not in a Kevlar or carbon fiber boat).

4) The scenic Shuh Shuh Gah (you try to pronounce it) through Sheridan to Wedron
However – this is all private land and you have to park at the livery in Sheridan or one of the two liveries in Wedron.

This area has high bluffs, a cave, beautiful scenery – what a shame it is not public.

You could paddle from Shu Shu or Silver Springs and past Wedron and portage the dam at Dayton (river right).

If you want more information, contact me.

Where Is My Sea Kayak Rack

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By Sigrid Pilgrim

For years I have been fortunate that the City of Evanston has a boat storage facility at the Dempster Street Beach on Lake Michigan. It’s nice to have the boat there and just be able to pull it off the rack rather than cartopping it there.

I went for a walk on Thursday, April 30, and “WHERE IS MY RACK?” I have rack Nr. 200, which is completely buried by the sand that the huge waves have covered much of the beach. I hope the City can find it so I can put my boat there again.

Have You Paddled the ??????

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By Don Mueggenborg

Some places seldom paddled in Illinois:

The Fox River between Silver Springs State Park and Shuh Shuh Gun Canoe Landing.
We discovered this canoe landing a couple years ago. The river is much like the river from Yorkville to Silver Springs with ripples to navigate and forest lined banks. Solitude. The trick is finding Shuh Shuh Gum (Kendal County FPD).

Skokie Lagoons – built by WPA in the 1930’s – a series of pools and islands and an adventure discovering all the different ways to go. A place near the city to get away from it all.

Sangamon River – I have paddled in the Decauter area and from Springfield to New Salem. The river winds among forests, not many residents along the way.

The Spoon – called the Grand Canyon of Illinois because of the clay banks streaked with red, brown, black. At normal water levels, the river sneaks and curves through canyons and farm country.

Blackberry Creek – I put in at Bliss Woods and paddled to Prairie St., Aurora. A narrow little creek – fun, but prone to log jams after a storm.

Pecatonica River – The Friends of the Pecatonica have done a great job building boat launches. River winds through farmland and forests.

Canals

Hennipin Canal – The canal runs from the Illinois River (sorry no access at the Illinois – go to the town of Tiskilwa) to the Mississippi River. No longer used for anything but recreation. It is fun to paddle through the whistles (tubes that go under the roads). I liked camping at Mineral and Wyanet. Interesting museum.

I & M Canal – Channahan to Gehardt Wood. You paddle on an aqueduct in a couple places. This could be a paddle and bike trip.