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

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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.

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.

New Boat Launch on the DuPage River in Lisle – Finally

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The forever on again off again project?

The first public launch on the East Branch of the DuPage River has long been in the works. The Lisle Park District started this endeavor back in 2007 with informal communications with various paddling groups as a means of testing of the waters (pun intended) to construct a launch in Community Park, located just west of the intersection of Route 53 and Short Street in Lisle.

The feedback was unanimously positive, so we engaged architects and engineers to design a launch and submitted funding applications to the IDNR’s Boat Access Area Development Grant Program.

After several unsuccessful years, we were finally notified in 2015 that our project was to receive funding. However, that funding was put on hold and eventually swept away during the governor transition at that time. We were notified in the summer of 2018 that the 2015 grant would be honored. After several months of completing the required paperwork for this award, the Lisle Park District bid the project last August.

Unfortunately, bids came in much higher than expected and budgeted. After researching the benefits of such a boat launch, especially given the growth of paddlesport participants, with the help of the Illinois Paddling Council, the Board of Park Commissioners followed staff’s recommendation to reject all bids and rebid the project in January 2020 when we expected a more competitive bidding environment.

The project was bid this January as recommended and the low bid was close to $32,000 lower than the low bid from August 2019. The Park Board unanimously approved awarding the contract under staff’s statement that “now that we have the grant agreement from the IDNR, the financial commitment from the Lisle Partners for Parks Foundation, adequate funding in the Park District’s 2020 Budget and now a low bid that is within current budget allocations, it appears the stars have finally aligned.”

We may have spoken too soon by not anticipating the current pandemic, but for now, we remain committed to seeing this project through. Construction is tentatively scheduled for August and as of the writing of this article, the Lisle Park District is being optimistic about following through on this 13-year initiative and looks forward to seeing a lot of you at the ribbon cutting and thereafter! Stay tuned and think positively!

-By Dan Garvy

Director of Parks & Recreation

Lisle Park District

Pedal, Paddle, & Hike

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Pedal, Paddle, and Hike!

Those words embody the vision we had when work started on developing the Pecatonica River as a water trail in Stephenson County. We worked long and hard and were able to reach that goal. Most importantly, we advocate for our projects and we raise money to build our projects.

We were designated a WaterTrail by Stephenson County. That wasn’t enough. Our initial plan identified launch sites for the Pecatonica River throughout Stephenson County. Our plan was developed using Illinois Paddling Council procedures. Work on additional sites was begun. Brochures were printed, events were scheduled, and use of the Pecatonica River promoted. We were designated a water trail in the State of Illinois.

Except for Mother Nature “raining on our parade” or flooding, things are progressing. Now we see what could be a step backward in the “Pedal, Paddle, and Hike” plan. The Jane Addams trail is part of a “Rails to Trails” conversion of former railroad routes, to bike trails. Part of the bridge near Cedarville Road has deteriorated to the point where the maintenance equipment used on the trail cannot use the bridge. Bicycle traffic is acceptable, for now.

The bridge in question is about 133 years old, was a construction of Chicago, Madison & Northern, 1886 – 1888, and part of the Illinois Central. The route was abandoned in 1985. Railroads take bridges very seriously and that is why it has lasted so long. However, it is time for some attention for this structure.

Jane Addams Trail, 133-year-old bridge support

The current economic situation, caused by the Covid—19 pandemic, is likely to impact municipal income at every level and for a very long time. Those interested in maintaining the current level of recreational opportunities will need to make their voices heard and participate in the search for funding to maintain existing bike and hiking trails. You should also realize that not all of the local representatives are in support of all recreational activities. It is important to make your opinions known and to be prepared to work together finding ways to fund our resources.

For us, the Wes Block site for the Jane Addams Trail was on our list as a potential launch site because it is half-way between McNeil’s Damascus Landing and Tutty’s Crossing. The site was also the trailhead for the Jane Addams Trail. Now there is a bike trail connection from Wes Block to Tutty’s Crossing, which also has a boat launch and a canoe/kayak launch. If you bike, hike or paddle, get involved in finding the funding solutions.

Joe Ginger, president
Friends of the Pecatonica River Foundation

Jane Addams Trail

The Illinois Central was chartered by the Illinois General Assembly on February 10, 1851. At its completion in 1856, the IC was the longest railroad in the world. Its main line went from Cairo, Illinois to Galena, Illinois. In 1886, the Chicago, Madison & Northern ran a line north from Freeport to Madison, Wisconsin, completed by 1888. They joined the Illinois Central in 1903. The line ran through Scioto Mills and Red Oak. At Red Oak, the Illinois Central built a junction station where the line branched. The northern branch, running through Buena Vista and Orangeville, became known as the Madison branch. This branch is what now constitutes the Jane Addams.

On February 1st, 1888, the first train ran the entire distance between Freeport, Illinois and Madison, Wisconsin.

Joseph Ginger
jtginger@mac.com