Dianne and I joined up with Yakker for a Friday trip down the scenic Illinois River (self-shuttled because it is good to have friends). At just a bit over 4 feet, the river level was perfect for our entire trip - no dragging and no paddling in treetops. Just the way I like it. We launched from the public access at No Head Hollow off Highway 10 and paddled down to the public take-out at the Highway 62 Bridge.
Just about 15 minutes into our trip, Dianne spots a Bald Eagle perched on a tree. It even let us get close enough to take some decent pictures (on Flickr) before making an abrupt departure! I wish we could have gotten on the water by 7am instead of 9am. Osprey frequent this river as well. Due to hitting the water around 9am on a weekday, we saw only a few canoes and two kayaks paddling the river with us. The weather, like the water level, was perfect at 70+ degrees and very little wind.
We saw lots of large carp, several large blue herons and dozens of turtles. I saw one canoe turnover, not due to an obstacle, but rather a poor launch. Although there are no real rapids on the Illinois River float trip we took, there are some downed trees to avoid and barely submerged root balls from past flooding. Although you watch out for these, you are bound to get the occasional unexpected bump. In this situation, you are a greater risk to your boat than the obstacle. React calmly and the collision is usually no big deal. However, if you get spooked you could end up swimming (more likely wading) this Class I water.
I paddled my old Perception Swifty, Dianne paddled her 12 foot Old Town Vapor and Yakker had his newly purchased Dagger Edisto. Despite paddling a somewhat tippy 15 foot touring kayak, Yakker admirably managed the few obstacles the river threw at us. Dianne's Vapor performed well and my old Swifty just about has this river memorized. We stopped on a gravel bar for a brief snack and again at Todd Public Access for a bathroom break. Unlikely the other public access points on our trip, Todd Public Access is on the East side of the river.
After we made it to the take-out at the Highway 62 Bridge, we were all eager to find some grub. However, my priority was to rummage through the outfitters stores for some kayaking t-shirts. I grabbed some decent canoeing shirts from the stores at Diamondhead Resort and War Eagle Resort, but alas...no kayaking shirts. Thankfully, right next to War Eagle's outfitter store we found Fatty's BBQ!
I was hungy enough to eat the butt out of a skunk by the time the paddling and shopping was concluded. The smoke rising from Fatty's was a sight for sore eyes and sunburned ears. We enjoyed Pulled Pork sandwiches and Potato Salad Alfresco from Fatty's BBQ. The shady seats and Doors music set the mood for basking in the afterglow of a perfect day of paddling. The pulled pork was delicious.
Those of you who went to work on Friday, truly have my pity.
Illinois River Watershed Appreciation Day June 6, 2009 from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday at Lake Fayetteville.