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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


Illinois Recreational Access Program – IRAP

By Sigrid Pilgrim

With efforts to develop water trails on a number of Illinois Rivers – we wanted to let you know about the IRAP Program by IDNR. This program leases private property throughout the state for semi-controlled public access for outdoor recreational opportunities. Currently, there are three such access sites for non-motorized craft in Bureau and Schuyler counties on the Illinois River, and on the Sangamon River in Sangamon County. Landowners are compensated with a few hundred dollars annually for making their private land available to the public for recreational purposes.

IRAP is federally funded through the NRCS Volunteer Public Access – Habitat Improvement Program (VPA-HIP) grant, and IDNR’s funding runs out in 2018 and is contingent upon the 2019 Farm Bill. (Let’s hope it will continue under the current administration).

Until then – everyone working on developing water trails – check out the details of this fabulous program. Although there are some restrictions – see linked below – perhaps there is a way you can identify potential private land owners who might want to participate in exchange for a few hundred dollars, and also the values this program contains. According to IDNR – landowners also benefit from conservation efforts by removing invasive species, upgrading potential access sites with gravel, and the knowledge that they are introducing more people to the wonders only the natural environment can bring.

For more details – please contact Tammy.Miller@illinois.gov.


Sangamon River Alliance

By Scott Hays

Last November, several groups and organizations came together with a common interest in the Sangamon River. Over 240 miles in length, the Sangamon courses through several towns including Mahomet, Monticello, Decatur (where a dam on the Sangamon forms Lake Decatur), Springfield, the historic town of Lincoln’s New Salem, and Petersburg before joining the Illinois River at Beardstown. On that day, people from organizations spanning these towns were there.

The initial goal was to meet, talk, network and explore shared interests and opportunities. And out of this meeting, a new organization was formed that we feel could be a model for river stewardship across Illinois and indeed, everywhere: the Sangamon River Alliance (SRA).

Our current draft mission statement explains that this group will be “dedicated to the stewardship of the Sangamon River watershed” and will “promote watershed conservation, education, and recreation.” “Working together, members of the Sangamon River Alliance will amplify the voice and good work of all of the organizations committed to the well-being of the Sangamon River watershed.”

For a river group within the state of Illinois, the SRA is comprised of an impressive diversity of interests and organizations, including: the Friends of the Sangamon Valley, the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy, Heart of the Sangamon Partnership, Lincoln Heritage Water Trail Association, Friends of Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park, Macon County Master Naturalists, Menard County Trails and Greenways, Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District, City of Decatur Water Production, the Agricultural Watershed Institute, the Village of Mahomet, the Illinois Audubon Society, the American Canoe Association, Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network, the Illinois Paddling Council, the Illinois State Museum, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Massie and Massie Associates,  which has helped with rivertrail plan development.

Not merely a paddling group or even a river group, the SRA seeks to take in the entire Sangamon watershed as the territory it covers, including the river, its tributaries and the surrounding landscape. In addition, we welcome expanded membership from any and all other groups, organizations, and agencies that are active throughout our watershed.

Again, quoting from our draft vision statement: “The Sangamon River Alliance creates a network for sharing and broadcasting information about the efforts of every organization that promotes conservation, and encourages educational and recreational opportunities throughout the Sangamon River watershed.”

For now, the group seeks to serve as a forum for coordinating the varied activities among the member groups. Currently there are no plans for the SRA to have a budget, a board of officers, although we are creating our website, which we hope will act as a ‘one-stop shopping’ site for any and all information about happenings, information, events, and stories for everything Sangamon River. Soon, we hope to hold a ‘Sangamon River Fair’ where all of our member groups can come out and meet the public, and visitors can learn more about the Sangamon watershed.

We hope that you will take an interest in our group and in our river in our part of the state. Come visit us and check out our website at sangamonriveralliance.org.

We’d like to leave everyone with this thought from our SRA draft vision statement: “We have an extraordinary capacity to document and analyze ecosystem threats and to conserve and restore habitats, and most importantly, we have a profound responsibility to ensure the vitality of nature for future generations.”

IDNR WUS Renewal Letter

If you have received a letter from IDNR requesting you to renew the boat corresponding to the hull number listed – see copy attached below – this ONLY applies to boats whose registration expired in 2015 or 2016. If you already purchased a WUS for 2017 – you DO NOT NEED to respond. Also – if you have sold or otherwise no longer own the boat corresponding to the hull number listed in the letter, no action is needed.

Here is the explanation from IDNR why they sent the letter:

The mailer was paid for by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and is not the first time DNR has worked with them to try and get people to register their expired boats (be in compliance with the law).  There are two different places on the mailer that state that if they no longer own the boat, they should disregard the notice.  The notices were not for the current year people still they were only on boats that lapsed in 2015 and 2016 (in other words, already expired). No changes have been made to the water usage stamp at this time.  The legislature still has not acted on any bills to change it.

IPC continues to work with IDNR to improve the WUS system – please call your legislators and let them know that you would like to see an improvement in the system as well. Thank you


For all organizers of competitive or other organized regatta events – please see the attached letter below, but be sure that you apply for the permit.

The application form can be accessed here: https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/boating/Documents/Regatta%20Plan%20Application.pdf

IDNR WUS Renewal Letter

IDNR WUS Renewal Letter Non resident water usage – special order

River is Up – Let’s Go! (No Don’t)

By Don Mueggenborg

The river is up. Time to go paddling.  Finally deep water.  Good current.

How often have we wished for good, high water on our favorite river? Won’t have to worry about hitting the bottom with our paddles.  The good current will make the trip fast.

Not a good idea.

  1. When the river is in flood stage, there are no banks. Those trees that are along the banks, are now between you and higher ground. If you should dump, you won’t be able to get you and your canoe or kayak to the shore.A few years back, my partner Tom and I were paddling the Des Plaines Marathon. Water was high and we were moving.  (We probably should have called it off, but hindsight is better than foresight sometimes.)

    We heard a cry “help!” We came around the bend and saw two people in the water hanging on to their canoe.  We got up to them and they grabbed our boat and we drifted.  There was no way for them to get to shore.  Finally, after a mile and a half, we found a spot for them to get out.  They were cold and wet.

    Under normal water, they would have swam to the shore and been out, dumped the water from their boat and continued.

  2. The trees can be dangerous.   If you manage to get your boat out of the main stream, with the water flowing through the trees, you can’t get your boat through the trees safely. The current may wrap a boat around the trees or wedge it between the branches. 

    Even think about it if you have a kayak. You can’t paddle through the trees because there is not enough room for your paddle between the trees.

  3. The current can be fast and tricky.   The water is often swirling in eddies, moving you to places you don’t want to be, often fast enough to throw you off balance. Fast current, water pushes you into the trees as you come around a curve. We are not used to having to react so fast or even how best to avoid the trees.As much as I love to paddle, as many hours as I have in the canoe, as much as I think I am a good paddler – maybe the best thing to do today is not paddle or find a place to paddle in the back waters with no trees.

    See you on the river – when the water drops a bit.

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: