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Let’s Go Paddling the (Dam) Fox River

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Batavia-Dam-Pix-2-1.jpg Batavia-Dam-Pix-1-2.jpg Batavia-Dam-Pix-3-0.jpg

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.

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.

My Adventures in Canoeing

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-By Don Mueggenborg

It’s been over 70 years since I first paddled a canoe at Boy Scout Camp Delevan. I have had my share of adventures and fun.

Maybe my first adventure was at Camp Delevan. I had just earned my canoeing merit badge and that evening Dale and I went out for a cruise. A couple boys just got their swimming classification and were in a canoe for the first time. They dumped – we rescued them. They would not get back into their canoe so I transferred over and paddle back in their boat. Instead of praise, we got heck for not making them get back in their canoe.

Since this is my story, I won’t tell of the times we screwed up. I won’t tell about the time in the Sangamon All-Craft Race when we – 3 of us in a tripping canoe – started with kayak paddles and decided to switch to canoe paddles. Someone, I won’t say who, leaned a little too much when stowing the kayak paddles. Swift current and the banks were clay – we could not get out for a long time.

Sangamon All-Craft Race – they subtracted 1 hour from the john boat time and added 45 minutes to the racing canoes. Missed a shortcut but managed to beat Skeet and Doug by a boat length. I can see the paddle we won engraved “Best Time” Year 1982.

I could tell you about the times we made a great buoy turn in the Current Buster canoe race to beat Brad and Fred, but I won’t tell you about the time called for a cross-bow at that same turn and my partner’s paddle got caught on the rope holding the buoy. We swam while several boats passed us with the “are you ok?” smile on their faces.

I won’t tell about my first race – Des Plaines in 1969. Got sucked under Ryerson dam – lost a paddle – ruined our lunches (20 miles with no lunch?), ruined the radio – wasn’t very good music anyway.

I won’t mention the time we lost Joe while we were paddling across Illinois (he was ok, only had to make a pit-stop). But I do remember camping along the Hennepin Canal and going to sleep to the sound of the water flowing over the old lock. Great camping on the canal.

Or the time on that trip when a cabin cruiser on the Illinois put up a ten-foot wave (seemed that big) and we had more water in the boat than I usually did in my bath tub. We did make it to shore as did Joe and Ben – barely.

Or the crazy race with Voyageur boats at Ouitetenon. We had to turn and cross the finish line backwards. We were leading when I called for the turn. Tom in the bow started to turn left while I was turning right. We realized it at the same time and switched. Two canoes passed us before we got our act together. Embarrassing – but they ruled the other canoes turned too late and did not back across the line and we won. I said a crazy race.

The Skokie Lagoons race – Ice Cream before and after the race – Stan the sponsor standing on a bridge telling you where to turn or his helper doing my portage for me (never could figure out how we did not have a portage going around the island, but had one on the other side) and following the bubbles in the water left by the heat ahead of you. Fun and low key.

Hope my reminiscing took your mind off the virus and got you planning to paddle again.

Canoe Trivia

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Some questions that have popped into my mind while stuck in the house. I ask the questions – give my answer. Think of your answer and share with us.

1. Oddest or strangest paddling or racing experience.

2. Longest paddling experience (time, distance).

3. Most fun or greatest thrill while paddling.

4. River you what to paddle again.

My answers:

1a. Dead Fish Race. Race in Decatur on the Sangamon. In order to have enough water for the race, they closed the dam for a hot night before the race. Race day they opened up the dam and hundreds of dead carp came floating out. We were catching dead carp on the bow of our boat for five miles.

1b. Sangamon All Craft Race. The rules make this interesting. Subtract an hour from the john boats, add 45 minutes to the racing canoes. Recreation canoes – no change.
One year, three of us paddled in a tripping canoe (recreational canoe). Our competition was a 6 man homemade rowing boat. They started ahead of us and we caught them at the finish line. They were ruled recreational. 45 minutes were added to our time because we paddled like racers.

1c. A slalom race in Rockford. The course was marked by black and white balloons. With the hot sun, the balloons popped one by one giving each boat a different course.

2a. 100 mile race on the Wabash. Water almost in flood stage for part of the race. Did it in 13 hours, Ed did it in 12:57. We celebrated with ice cream.

2b. Paddle across Illinois. 250 miles, 4 and one-half days.

3. Maybe the times we paddled in Quetico, Canada. A week of paddling in the wilderness with my family and friends was the most fun I think. See in kids – grade school and HS freshmen enjoy nature.

4a. The General Clinton Race course on the Susquehanna from Cooperstown to Bainbridge. 70 miles in a beautiful valley (and we even took 3rd place one year). Thanks Don for pulling me down the river.

4b. Juniper Creek that runs out of Juniper Springs in Florida. Winding through jungle like scenery.

Your turn = share with us.

-By Don Mueggenborg

Federal Lawsuit Filed to Force Dynegy to Clean Up Toxic Pollution of Vermilion River

Federal Lawsuit Filed to Force Dynegy to Clean Up Toxic Pollution of Vermilion River
Recent Video Documents Continued Coal Ash Contamination of Illinois’ Only National Scenic River

Contact: Jenny Cassel, Earthjustice, jcassel@earthjustice.org or 215.717.4525
Andrew Rehn, Prairie Rivers Network, arehn@prairierivers.org or 217.344.2371 x 208

May 30, 2018 (Urbana, Illinois) — Prairie Rivers Network, represented by Earthjustice, today filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois to force Dynegy to clean up toxic coal ash dumps that are leaching harmful pollution into the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, Illinois’ only National Scenic River. Newly-released videodocuments the pollution at issue in the lawsuit, which argues that Dynegy is violating the Clean Water Act. The pollution has tainted the river with visible orange, purple, and rust-colored toxic residue.

“Dynegy left a toxic mess on the banks of one of Illinois’ most beautiful rivers, and has done nothing to stop the dangerous, illegal pollution from fouling waters enjoyed by countless families who kayak, tube, canoe, and even swim in the river. Dynegy has left us no choice but to sue,” said Earthjustice attorney Jenny Cassel, who represents Prairie Rivers Network.

The pollution is leaching from coal ash generated at Dynegy’s now retired coal-fired power plant, the Vermilion Power Station. For decades, the ash left over from burning coal at the plant was dumped irresponsibly into unlined ponds that together run approximately a half-mile along the river. Coal ash contains a slew of dangerous pollutants that are linked to cancer, heart disease, and strokes, as well as lifelong brain damage for children. Sampling from the river found a “toxic soup” including arsenic, barium, boron, chromium, iron, lead, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, and sulfate. Concentrations of boron and sulfate – primary indicators of coal ash contamination – were repeatedly found in groundwater at the site above levels deemed safe by Illinois and U.S. EPA.

“We have a rare jewel in our midst. My brothers and I learned how to swim in that river and spent countless hours exploring it. Over the years, my wife and I have introduced our children, grandchildren, and extended family to the river to enjoy the beauty, peace, and excitement of being outdoors. We must work together to see that this coal ash problem is solved safely,” said local resident Mike Camp from nearby Collison, who grew up along the river and in sixty-four years has never lived more than two miles away from it.

American Rivers recently named the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River one of the ten most endangered rivers in the United States due to the coal ash contamination. The Vermilion County Board has twice unanimously passed resolutions asking Dynegy to clean up the mess.

The river and its banks are popular for kayaking, other boating, tubing and hiking, with thousands of visitors each year. The Middle Fork runs through Kickapoo State Park, which gets over one million visitors each year.

“As you travel along the river, one minute you are enjoying spectacular natural beauty and the next you’re looking at unsightly chemicals leaching into the water. It’s jarring. It’s bad for the local community and the wildlife—including several endangered species—associated with the river. Dynegy is jeopardizing the local jobs and the economy that depend on visitors who value the river for recreation. No one wants to swim or boat in toxic soup. Dynegy should use some of the money they made when they ran the plant to clean it up. They’re the ones who chose not to safely dispose of the coal ash,” said Rob Kanter, a naturalist and writer who serves on the Board of Prairie Rivers Network.

Meanwhile, Scott Pruitt is proposing to gut the protections for coal ash pollution nationwide, even as evidence mounts that coal ash dumps such as those at the closed Vermilion power plant are leaching dangerous chemicals into rivers, lakes, and groundwater. Even absent strong federal protections for legacy coal ash sites, however, Dynegy still must comply with environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act.

According to today’s lawsuit filed by Prairie Rivers Network, Dynegy has been discharging without a proper permit and in violation of Illinois environmental and health standards for years. Prairie Rivers Network will ask the court to order Dynegy to “take all actions necessary” to stop the illegal pollution that is being discharged to the Middle Fork, and to pay penalties to the United States Treasury of up to $53,484 per day for each day over the last five years that Dynegy has violated the Clean Water Act.

The Middle Fork and its surrounding area host twenty threatened or endangered species, fifty-seven types of fish, forty-six different mammal species, and two hundred seventy different bird species. The river is home to state-endangered Blue Breast Darter and several species of rare, threatened, and endangered mussels. The American bald eagle, river otter, and wild turkey have returned to the area, sharing their habitat with mink, turtles, Great Blue Heron and other species.

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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:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1im7LVuQ-ElUIj4SekHrxMaMVOKE&hl=en&ie=UTF8&msa=0&ll=42.59737658990872%2C-89.681396&spn=1.075262%2C2.224731&z=8

Thank you: Friends of the Pecatonica

For the great job you have been doing for the last decade and more to make the Pecatonica Illinois’s Friendliest Paddle and more! Please share how you accomplished all with IPC in an article for the next newsletter. We have many rivers in our state that could benefit by having a “Friends of ???? River,” so having your guidance on how you achieved your success would be wonderful.

And – for everyone reading this –  enjoy the FPRF Dec Newsletter.

The Fox River Deserves National Recognition

By Greg Taylor  

So, how many of you have ever paddled on a National River Water Trail? Well, there is a fair chance, if you have lived here in Illinois for a while and paddled different rivers to experience all that the Midwest has to offer. You might have!  The Rock, in north central Illinois, flowing from Wisconsin; The Kankakee, southeast of Chicago; and, part of The Ol’ Man, The Big Muddy, “The Mississippi,” down by St. Louis, are the only ones within 200 miles of Chicago. So, what is a National River Water Trail you ask? Well, if you Google it, it’s all there in color and a wealth of info I’ll leave you to have fun discovering. A quick snap shot is that a “Water Trail is a river or section that meets Federal standards for accessibility and positive human use.” I know that can be a loaded statement these days, heck almost any time in human History, but it’s getting better the more everyone realizes that we all need rivers that are for “positive human use” meaning, everyone agrees to its positive use.

Fox River Ecosystem Partnership, aka “FREP,” is currently moving forward to obtain Federal recognition for the Fox through the National Park Service, which is overseen by the Department of the Interior. The Wisconsin side has been mapped and is in the planning stages already; some of its infrastructure is already in place. Now it’s our turn. I’m assuming many of you have paddled some part of the Fox. If you haven’t, you’re missing a gorgeously calm, relaxing, and picturesque river. And it turns out an ancient river. There are dells on the lower Fox like the ones up in Wisconsin with the Ducks river tours – except you don’t have to pay, as you see them free. Only your desire and sense of adventure are needed. I’m sure there are other attributes that exist on the Fox, and that is why – and what – I am writing about and asking for here. I am the Volunteer Coordinator for ground-truthing the Illinois side of the Water Trail Certification. We are in the process of developing the tools that will be used for data submission. Currently, the options are to submit the data and observations through Google Drive, using smart phones or tablets or printing out a paper copy to submit. This is an easy one for anyone to enjoy and experience. Just enter the river, enjoy the paddle down stream, camping if there are areas that are clearly understood as camping spots, stop for lunch, site-see, whatever you find that you can enjoy or think others might find interesting. The more the better. Exit the river and fill out a short checklist and opinion survey, and you have just become part of a National Water Trail Certification process. That’s it. I’m looking into a token of gratitude item, something like a safety whistle with the water trail insignia on it, or something along those lines. We’ll see what I can push for. Stay tuned.

So that’s it. This is a long time coming. I know Ralph Frese started talking about this back in the mid-sixties for basically the same reasons and more than that we are working towards now. One step at a time, and this will come to fruition. Stay tuned, this should be a fun one.

Plan Ahead – Trips for the Summer

Don Mueggenborg

Now is the time to begin thinking about summer and where you are going to canoe. Here are some of my favorite trips. For more specific directions, contact me through the newsletter.

 

Great Circle Route – 6 (or is it 7) rivers in one trip.

Channahon, IL. Here is a chance to paddle several bodies of water in one trip.

Take I-55 or Rt. 47 to Rt. 6.   Rt. 6 to Canal St., south to Bridge St.

  • Park by the bike route where the road goes over the I&M Canal (south of the main park – Bridge St.)
  • Put in the DuPage River, paddle out to the Des Plaines (careful of the barges), cross over to Grant Creek.
  • At the bridge, portage over to the slough, paddle across the slough to the Kankakee River.
  • The Kankakee joins the Des Plaines to form the Illinois. Cross over, steep portage to the I&M canal, and return to the parking lot.   (Alternative – paddle upstream (west side of river) until you come to the shelter – portage to the canal.)

The IPC cruised this route several years ago. Might be a good trip to do again as a group – IPC and friends. Invite other clubs.

Probably about four hours.

 

Des Plaines River Expedition

This is a little longer trip – take it in stages. It can be done in 3 or 4 long days or more – but you could conquer it in stages. You might even use a car/bike shuttle in several stages. If there were campgrounds along the way, it would be perfect; however, most of the area along the river is urban (although you don’t know it most of the time you are on the river) and there are no campgrounds.

A bike trail runs along much of the river, from Oak Spring Road on the north to Dam # One on the south. (Check it out, there may be an open spot that I missed in that area.)

There is also a bike trail from Columbia Woods in Willow Springs (“River Through History” historical re-enactment held in September), past Lemont, to Isle a la Cache (135th Street, Romeoville – museum of Voyageur and Indian History).

A portion of the river from Oak Spring Road to Dam # 2 is the site of the Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon (held on May 23 this year – canoemarathon.com).

The river from Harlem Ave. portage site downstream is the route traveled first by Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette. Although the river has been channelized, you can find remnants of the original river, including Goose Lake and the islands at Isle a la Cache.

You start at Russell Road at the state line and end the trip at Ruby Street in Joliet. (The Des Plaines River continues, but is really the Ship and Sanitary Canal.)

 

Cross Illinois by Canoe

Even more ambitious. You can paddle across Illinois by canoe with just one auto portage necessary. (If you can find where Bureau Creek enters the Illinois, you might make it without a mechanical portage.)

  • Start at the state line on the Kankakee River
  • Kankakee River to the Illinois
  • Illinois to the Hennepin Canal (some nice campsites on the canal)
  • Hennepin (Illinois-Mississippi Canal) to the Green River to the Rock (portage the dam by entering the I&M canal and back to the river) to the Mississippi (paddle upstream) to Sunset Park

We found campsites at:

  • Werner Bridge, Kanakee State Park (Day 1 for us)
  • Stratton State Park, Morris (Day 2)
  • Wyanet on the Hennepin Canal (Day 3 – we had to do a car shuttle to make this work)
  • Geneseo on the canal (Day 4)

We did it in 5 days – we paddled steadily.

My Bucket List for 2017

By Don Mueggenborg

I have paddled most of the rivers in Illinois, but am missing a few. So – my goal is to paddle one or two that I have missed. Want to join me? I would love to have some company.

Calumet and Thorne Creek

I paddled on the Calumet about 40 years ago, maybe longer than that. The section we paddled was interesting, but urban. Improvements have been made and a boat launch added.

Mackinaw

We drove over the river a couple weeks ago and I realized that I never followed up after Wally (can’t remember last name) gave me directions on where I could paddle and some warnings about where I should not paddle. (Seems some of the property owners have had poor experiences with some people who use canoes to do their littering – note I did not dignify them by calling them paddlers).

Southern Rivers

I have not paddled the Cache and Muddy Rivers, but that might be another year away.