Opportunities for paddle sports education are numerous throughout the Midwest, mainly through two different organizations or their affiliates (i.e., local paddling groups), Paddlesports North America (PNA) and the American Canoe Association (ACA). Both groups provide reliable instruction suitable for those who have never paddled, to the more advanced. Skills and instructor courses are offered by hundreds of trained instructors, across a wide spectrum of paddling, safety, and rescue disciplines. Course requirements vary considerable between these two groups. In addition to PNA and ACA, the United States Canoe Association (USCA) offers a one-day instructor certification course focused on the basics of canoeing.
Below are relevant links to PNA, ACA, and USCA instructors and course offerings. Note that new courses are added to each organization’s calendars during the year. Also, some instructors may not be teaching classes currently.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is excellent, short, visual and to the point. Since it is hard to print out in the format given, I tracked down the origin and suggested that perhaps it could be made available with each canoe/kayak sold. Little did I know the background and what a great surprise
Thank you JIM EMMONS, Non-Profit Outreach Grant Director, Water Sports Foundation, Inc.
A Division of WSIA.net; ACA Instructors and US Coast Guard.
The pamphlet idea was developed during a 2015 safety meeting that I organized with the USCG and the top six recreational kayak manufacturers at the Outdoor Retailer trade showing Salt Lake City, UT. During the meeting, we got the manufacturers’ attention by sharing the raw data on deaths in America. Prior to this meeting, the manufacturers had no idea that kayaks killed so many. Next we asked them to help us share safety messages through their channels, both social media and marketing, like websites and newsletters. They all unanimously agreed. At this meeting, we discussed a safety pamphlet that could be attached to kayaks during production and shipped to dealers ready for consumers right in the retail environment. The manufacturers all agreed to include them and in January, nearly 7 million (a three year supply) were printed by the USCG.
I managed to get a commitment from NASBLA to help get this pamphlet shipped to nearly every state and territory — about 2 million copies.
There have been a few articles about this project. I’ve linked two here.
In addition to the printed pamphlet, we also produced an eight part video series called Safer Paddling, Be Smart, Be Safe, Have Fun. The videos are all over Youtube, but you can find them on our partner’s website, Canoe & Kayak here. (The pamphlet also has a QR code directly linking to the videos). For 2017, we are producing a series of SUP videos and a pamphlet for SUP manufacturers to attach to the deck of the board.
Most of us like a pork sausage with pancakes, or a slice of bacon with eggs (or almost everything). I enjoyed a pork roast at Christmas.
Since we are the Illinois Paddling Council, I can assume that most of the people reading this are paddlers. We all enjoy a nice summer paddle on our favorite river (and almost any river I paddle is my favorite at that time).
At one time (and maybe it is still an annual event), Bob Evans invited people to paddle to his farm and enjoy his famous sausages. (Now that is a great way to enjoy both!)
If the price of pork is kept low, we may eat more. This is what the pork producers want. (Of course, their profits will grow as we eat more.)
In order to cut the cost of hog production and make more profits, the pork producers are threatening our rivers.
A three-page article in the Chicago Tribune (Dec 28, 2016) exposes the threat to our rivers.
Pork producers have been building mega-hog farms. The one mentioned in the Tribune article is for 20,000 hogs. No, I did not put in an extra zero.
Besides a lot of bacon, 20,000 hogs produce an awful lot of waste products. This is stored in concrete bunkers, eventually dried, and becomes fertilizer. In the meantime, it produces an unbearable stench.
Nearby wells and streams are threatened with pollution.
If one of the holding bunkers should rupture, be damaged in a tornado, overflow due to heavy rains, millions of gallons of toxic sludge will be set free (it has happened a few years back).
It will flow into our rivers, killing fish, and making the waters unfit to paddle on.
The closest river to the proposed mega-hog farm mentioned by the Tribune is the Spoon River, which flows west and south of Peoria into the Illinois River.
The Spoon is called by some the “Grand Canyon of Illinois” for its colorful red and yellow high clay banks. It is a river that is fun to paddle and was the site of a race I looked forward to for years. It is probably best known for the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.
ACTION TIME – the Illinois Department of Agriculture apparently has limited jurisdiction according to the article – so – IT IS TIME TO WRITE, EMAIL, CALL our state senators and representatives. Urge them to pass laws that will safeguard our rivers.
I will pay a little more for my spareribs, bacon, and sausages, to save our rivers.
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.
At the beginning of the film, Mr. Canoe, we hear the voice of Ralph Frese over images of re-enactors dressed in traditional Voyageur explorer outfits, paddling in replica Native American birch bark canoes:
“The canoe is the only trail that take us through nature without leaving a trace of our passing.”
The statement is both iconic and ironic in respect to Mr. Frese, as he left much more than a trace after his passing. Indeed, his legacy left an indelible impression on all who truly knew him.
In November of 2012, Octane Rich Media (www.octanerichmedia.com) began filming a documentary about Mr. Frese, the Chicagoland Canoe Base that he founded, and his intriguing band of devout followers. Less than a few weeks after endeavoring to tell the tale of Ralph Frese, he passed away. The filmmakers began a four year odyssey to interview the people whose lives he touched and influenced, including the adventurers and explorers inspired by Ralph Frese to undertake the longest, most arduous canoe journeys in over three hundred years: The twentieth century re-enactments of the Joliet Marquette and the LaSalle Expeditions, traversing waters from Montreal, through the Great Lakes, and through the heart of the country via the mighty Mississippi.
James Forni, the Director and Executive Producer, and Joshua Jones, the Director of Photography and Editor of the film, combed through archive materials, films, radio and television interviews spanning a half century to craft the complex portrait of one of Chicago’s most interesting and influential citizens. A key piece of the archive involved carefully restoring the 16mm film from the 1973 Joliet Marquette Expedition. We learn that Ralph was both inspiration to fellow paddlers and a superb craftsmen, one of the last blacksmiths in Chicago, an ardent historian, and passionate environmentalist. While the title of Mr. Canoe was originally and rightfully the sobriquet attributed to Ralph Frese, it also became evident that the name belonged to his proteges as they have carried forth his traditions, like the portages they shared with Ralph over the decades.
One of the central stories explored in the film is the LaSalle Expedition – referred to as LaSalle Expedition II. Inspired by the bicentennial celebration, it was the only historical re-enactment traversing both Canada and the United States in 1976. A crew of roughly twenty men canoed and portaged 3,300 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico in 34-foot canoes and handmade clothing, with little modern equipment, in a Tricentennial re-enactment of LaSalle’s 1676 Expedition through the United States. We discover that the nine-month expedition was funded by a group of donors who raised a significant amount of money for the challenging and resource-draining trip, long before the advent of crowd funding.
The crew was supported by a team of dozens of on-land coordinators as they touched the lives of thousands, making stops along the rivers at towns and major cities to give educational presentations, sing French Voyageur songs, and spread a message of conservation, while teaching the public about the American Midwest’s often forgotten, or ignored, French history. While the crew had support along the way, the voyage occurred purely due to the perseverance of the re-enactors, paddling down Americas’s rivers and streams, hauling canoes across a frozen South Bend, Indiana, during one of the worst winters of the 20th century. The feat and journey to an outsider, which all of the men on the voyage once were, seems ludicrous. Who possibly could have convinced two dozen men to put their lives on hold for months to attempt something so difficult, dangerous, and seemingly impossible? A canoe maker from Chicago named Ralph Frese.
A generation after the expedition, the cast of unique characters speak about their memories of the trip with
remarkable vividness and insight into how our country views its history and environment. To the uninitiated, the extensive historic celebrations shown in the film at Fort De Chartres in Illinois, and the Feast of the Hunter’s Moon on the Wabash River in Indiana, will be a revelation.
The story of Ralph references how once a boy, who loved nature and happened to take an interest in boats, became an undisputed authority on all things canoes, including their astonishing place in the history of North America, both before and after the arrival of European settlers. A third generation blacksmith, Ralph eventually converted part of his father’s blacksmith shop into a place to build and forge canoes. With the deeply felt belief that a canoe is the finest way to experience the wilderness, Frese pursued re-creating Indian birchbark canoes and the canoes of the French Voyageurs. In many ways an entirely self-educated man, Frese cultivated an archive of French Voyageur artifacts, a library of information about canoes and their history, and fed an obsession with the Midwest’s under-represented French influence. We discover through the film that though he was argumentative, meticulous, and in his later years a bit of a curmudgeon, he was always an instigator and with a well-earned reputation for getting people to do what they would never do otherwise, things they would have never thought themselves capable of doing.
Many of the endearing scenes surround the witnessing of the many tributes to him: from Alderman Tim Cullerton’s official posthumous dedication of the Honorary Ralph Frese Way on the property of the Chicagoland Canoe Base, to the thousands of people who showed up to participate in the Des Plaines River Marathon, a race he created, the year after his passing, and the donation of his unique, historical archives to the newly founded Chicago Maritime Museum in Chicago’s Bridgeport community.
Mr. Canoe is, finally, a study in pursuing your passion and a glimpse into how the delight of a life-long obsession can inspire others from different walks of life to follow a dream. The Mr. Canoe documentary feature film is set to release in the spring of 2017 from production company Octane Rich Media and its recently formed film studio: Octango Films. Details on festival screenings and DVDs will become available next year.
The filmmakers are soliciting Ralph Frese memories and materials. Click here to learn how to contribute.
The filmmakers for the upcoming documentary, Mr. Canoe, set to release in 2017, are seeking submissions from any paddler with memories of, photos, or correspondence with the late Mr. Ralph Frese – the subject of the film. If you have any previous contact with Ralph Frese and would like to share your memories, you may send an email to Sigrid H. Pilgrim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Materials may be sent to the film makers at the following address. Contents will be scanned, photographed, and returned, provided you include a return address. Deadline for submission is December 1, 2016. Any material used in the final film will receive mention in the credits. You will receive a release letter to verify that you are the sole owner of the material and can grant the usage of it in the film.
Below is information that DNR has decided to use as the standard for boating safety:
“The operators of boat rental services shall offer abbreviated Department and National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved operating and safety instruction specific to the type of watercraft being rented to the renter and all potential operators”
The specific information pertaining to canoes and kayaks can be found here: http://rentalboatsafety.com/canoe-kayak.php – the page that has the instructional videos and the test pertinent to canoe and kayak renters.
While there seems to be a conflict with the wording on the page “Approved abbreviated course for watercraft rental purposes” (rentalboatsafety.com) that references compliance with the Illinois Boating Safety Certificate requirements (checking this out shows that it pertains to motor boats only), this Admin Rule does include renters of canoes and kayaks, too.
The idea behind the legislation is to reduce canoe/kayak accidents involving rental operations where often the renter has no paddling experience at all. It is supposed to work as follows:
when a person calls up a canoe/kayak rental place to rent a boat – the livery or rental business needs to tell the potential renter to go to the website, watch the videos/take the test/print out the certificate and then bring that with him/her to rent the boat
same day walk-ups can be instructed on site by watching the videos or taking the test