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Author: Sigrid Pilgrim

Recreational Boating Statistics


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!


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.


Here is a list of clubs, businesses, even a college that offer paddling instruction

www.prairiestatecanoeists.org/Instruction – club

www.nwpassage.com/chicago-kayak – outfitter

www.rei.com/events/a/paddling – retailer

www.kayakchicago.com/classes/ – outfitter

www.cwa.wildapricot.org/ – club

www.kayakmorris.com – outfitter

www.rocktownadventures.com – retailer

www.chicagoriverpaddle.com – outfitter

www.llbean.com – check for kayaking courses

www.statelinepaddlers.net – club

www.rutabaga.com  – check for paddling instruction

www.havekayakswilltravel.com – outfitter

www.cod.edu/academics/acadmicc_opportunities/field/calendar.aspx  – College of DuPage

Please note: the above is for information purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement of any business or organization – subject to change.


Held at the Historic Warren Tavern (no alcohol) in Warrenville, it was a pleasant evening of a lot of canoe talk, good pizza, and an excellent program.

The business meeting:

President Tom Eckles presented a brief overview of 2019 and the IPC.

His main interest, river clean-up, had several cleanups, but high water forced cancellation of others (not only safety concerns but high water tends to clear out the trash (only to find it when the waters recede).   (ALWAYS LOOKING FOR MORE VOLUNTEERS

The Hartman Fund was mentioned – money designated for getting canoe/kayak instructors certified.  We have money, need candidates.  It was suggested that perhaps funds could be used for school programs.

He emphasized that we could use more volunteers to help staff tables at various events during the year.

ELECTION OF OFFICERS   Same slate as this year.  Will be looking for new blood next year.  Our meetings are usually via phone conference call.  Members can join in and are encouraged to do so – contact Tom for details.

COMPETITION   High spring and fall water cancelled several races and the Des Plaines Marathon suggested paddlers not comfortable in higher, faster water take a refund.  With 4 races, a person had to race 3 in one class.

Joe Crnkovich (a racing rookie) won the kayak class  (39 out of 40 points)

Luke and Ben Josefik

Luke Josefik pulled his dad Ben down the river to win the Adult/Youth (39 out of 40 points)

Pat Faul and Steve Conlon won all their races in the Standard class

Nice going!

Joe Crnkovich


The presenter, Charlie Zine, took the challenge of paddling the length of the Fox River in one 8-day stretch. Traveling light (smallest possible sleeping shelters you ever saw), they showed pictures of where they camped, what they saw, and the river and dams they encountered.


  • Dams – There are 13 dams in Illinois that had be portaged and a few more in Wisconsin
  • Camping – Most of the land along the Fox, especially in Illinois, is private property.  There are a lack of campgrounds (they used guerrilla camping with permission.


  • They completed their challenge successfully.
  • Scenery
  • People

Way to go!


Thank you all who have renewed your membership in IPC for 2020.  We greatly appreciate your support. If you have NOT renewed your membership, you can do so by going on www.illinoispaddling.org/membership and use PayPal or send your renewal check to:

IPC Treasurer c/o Don Mueggenborg

9 E Peiffer Dr., Lemont, IL 60439

We also would love to get your suggestions on how to improve our organization and programs. If you can contribute with an article to our newsletter, attend our bimonthly meetings (you can do so via phone), participate in some of the events we are asked to staff a booth and provide information about paddle sport……if you enjoy paddling – give something back by getting involved with IPC. Thank you.


The Show Guide is now available online – so you can plan your visit and lectures early. Check here

https://www.paddlers.com/canoecopia/showguide.asp?r=1  and please – if you go, give IPC a few hours to help staff the table and answer the many questions – most importantly – where to go paddling?  To help answer that question, see:

Be sure to watch the three-minute introductory video to discover interactive maps, Faddling and access information, and local managers for 1,896 unique sections of rivers in the tinited States. Click on the llnk by state and pull up ten pages of river sections you can paddle in lllinois. A superb effofi by the River Management Society.

Enhancing the Lake Michigan Water Trail from North Chicago to the Wisconsin border – Your Input is Needed!

Openlands has partnered with the IDNR’s Coastal Management Program (CMP) and the municipalities of North Chicago, Beach Park, Waukegan, Winthrop Harbor, and Zion to create a plan to expand and enhance the Lake Michigan Water Trail; specifically, the 10 mile section from North Chicago to the Wisconsin border. The goal is to connect local communities and visitors to Lake Michigan through programming and trail-improvement. We believe this will result in a well-used water trail that brings quality of life, economic, and stewardship benefits to the adjacent communities.

To realize benefits of enhancing the trail, we are in the process of prioritizing projects that will help make the trail safe, equitable, and thriving.

By safe we mean the trail will have ample information to allow citizens to make educated decisions about where and when to paddle. Training and guided trips will allow paddlers of all skill levels to experience the trail.

By equitable we mean a water trail that is accessible to children and adults of diverse backgrounds, skill levels and abilities and creates paddling opportunities for adjacent communities, even those without their own equipment.

By thriving we mean a well-used trail that inspires active stewardship, allowing ecosystems to flourish and that draws visitors, strengthening local economies.

With funding from CMP and REI, we have held 5 local paddling events, organized several planning meetings with local governments, businesses, and community leaders, and conducted a survey of paddlers that attended local events.

As we continue making this Lake Michigan Water Trail a reality, we would love to have your input at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/832G7ZP

For more information, please contact paddle@openlands.org.


It’s remarkable to think about how far we’ve come since the first “Chicago River Rescue Day” in 1992. That day, Friends hosted a small, feisty group of 25 dedicated volunteers who wanted to rescue the river by pulling shopping carts, mattresses, and plastic bags from its banks. Twenty-five years and more than 60,000 volunteers later, the Chicago River system is no longer a forgotten wildlife corridor filled with sewage and trash. Today the river system is vibrant, accessible, and alive with people, 70 species of fish, countless species of birds, and many native animals including beavers, mink, and turtles. https://www.chicagoriver.org/get-involved/volunteer/chicago-river-eco-warriors-crew


On Saturday, September 19, 2020, Friends of the Fox River will coordinate a cleanup on the entire Fox River from Waukesha, Wisconsin to the confluence in Ottawa, Illinois. We encourage individuals, groups and organizations to run a clean-up along the river, but some other ways to help and celebrate the river include, but are not limited to, a canoe clean-up, bike trail clean-up, a family creek walk, birding, fishing, paddling, riverside yoga, a community water blessing, art making, or a river photography workshop. Creative, and fun, all ages community events and celebrations are what will make “It’s Our Fox River Day” a strong tradition in all our communities