Thursday, August 2, 2012

Eerie Paddle

I had not paddled this area yet this year and as we all know, the water has been very low everywhere.  I decided to take the girls out on the river.  It was my 2 yr old's first time on the Fox River and on a Wednesday evening, the boat traffic was going to be very light.

There was a spot that I thought both of them would really like to explore with me that I had starting calling "Beaver Cove" due to all the beaver activity back there.  I thought it would be fun for them to see the chewed up trees and maybe catch a glimpse of a beaver....well, the ambiance had changed a bit back there.

Just inside the mouth of the cove was a huge section of algae. It was nice and thick, but there was a thinner area to the left that we were able to paddle through.  After that, it opened back up a little bit, but there are a lot of water weeds and with the low water, they were really a factor in paddling.

Now, when we got to the back of the cove, I was starting to get a little creeped out also.  At this point, my navigator was nervous.  My co navigator was playing with the water and didn't give a damn where we were. If I had not been back here before, I would have turned around at this point.

There is one log around the back of the island that you have to hop over.  I wasn't too nervous because I had done it before and had the hang of it. However, I had not done it before with my 2 yr old in the boat.  Now, there were no issues until we were half over the log and I was scooting towards the front of the canoe.  Just off the bow was a carp playing at the surface.  Now, if you have paddled the chain and Fox river, you know that these things are not the daintiest fish in the area.  At the moment, Shamu was hitting the surface.  This is when the trip turned into a scare fest.

After hopping the log, we came into another clearing.  The carp were jetting off all over the place.  One came half out of the water and looked like a toddler standing in the water.  Thankfully it was not too near us. I quickly realized that the water was about a foot deep and that our exit around the rest of the island was not an option.  The water was so low that the exit was dried up.  We had to go back the way we came.

We watched one carp hang out at the surface and it started making it's way over to us.  It was about 20 feet off the bow of the canoe and my navigator said it was time to go.  I assured her that there was no danger, but trying to explain to a 7 year old girl that the river monster headed towards her end of the boat was not going to hurt her was not working very well.  We spun the ship around and headed back into the log labyrinth.  I go the front end of the canoe over the log and had it balanced in the middle.  I used another section of the log (overhead) to grab and pull the rest of the canoe forward. The bow swung to the right and we tipped at a pretty good angle.  Now I was scared.  We straightened out, calmed down, and got the ass end of the canoe back in the water.  I was back to calm, but my navigator was strung out pretty good.  I tossed some weeds off my paddle and they hit the water right next to her.  She screamed, tears flowed, and paddling the cove ended.

Once we got back to the calm water of the river, we talked about the cove and our adventure.  She admitted she was scared and that she did have a good time.  She is not going back.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Favorite Part

There are a lot of things I love about paddling.  There are also miles and miles of water that I love paddling.  But there is one part of paddling that I love the most.  Paddling with my kids.  My youngest is just over 2 years old and is getting very comfortable on the canoe.  She even asks for the paddle.  She has no problem walking around on the boat, wearing a lifevest, or leaning over the side to touch the water.

A great place to take a little one is Atwood Lake in the Hollows of Cary.  It is spring fed and is crystal clear.  You can't go out there and not see fish swimming around.  My kids love watching for the fish and frogs that live out there.  We paddle the entire lake and take our time.

This time, my oldest was not able to make it out with us, so the lil one got to snag the front seat of the canoe.  She quickly became the captain of the ship.  

She is a fair captain though.... she let me take a break and she took over the paddling. We didn't go very far, but she has the hang of it!

We were sitting on the far north side of the lake and coasted up to the shore as were fishing.  My little explorer pointed out a giant frog for me when we got to shore.  It sat right next to the tip of the canoe and didn't move.  

There are times when kids get on your nerves and you just want some time to yourself, but when you are out exploring, there is no better co-pilot than a kid.

Searching for the Bubbler

Last week I took advantage of the calm water out on the Chain of Lakes last week.  I launched at Lighthouse and was told to head towards the Fox River at the West side of Pistakee Lake.  Where the river meets the lake, there is a spot called "The Bubbler" where there is some good fishing.  I was given directions by a local and I headed across the lake.

The water was great out there.  There were a few power boats that passed by, but I was no where near them really.  I caught a few waves, but it was a pretty flat paddle. I cut right across the lake.

Right at the mouth of the river, there are a couple little islands.  One has a cross from a snowmobile accident and the other one is made of all shells.  The little shell island, is odd to see out on a lake in Northern Illinois.  Now, it's mostly shells from mussels, but still, the sound of them shifting in the waves makes it feel like you are in the Tropics somewhere.

Well, I never did find the bubbler, but the water was great and I did catch one fish.  I found out later that it was a Sheephead.  I think my next trip is going to be a section of the Fox that I have not hit yet.  From the mouth to Chapel Hill rd is one of the 2 sections of the upper fox that I have not paddled.  Maybe I will leave Lighthouse Marine and paddle down to Epic Deli for a sandwich.....

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Morning Paddle

I dropped in at Miller Riverfront Park in Mchenry this week.  I didn't have much time before work, so I decided to paddle a section of the Fox that I have never paddled before.  I went south out of the park and paddled about a mile down to the lock n dam.  It was very calm out and with the water so low, no other boats were out this morning.

Heading south, you pass under Charles Miller rd.  You can see the lock staging area from here also.  This area is all homes with a few sections of cattails.  There were a lot of water fowl and some turtles hanging out in those areas.  In normal boating season, this is a busy area coming in and out of the locks.

I got down to the locks and hung out in the calm water right at the dam.  The water is so low that there isn't much spill over at the dam wall.  This area is pretty cool to see and the locks are pretty interesting.  If you have never seen a lock n dam, go check it out!

If you hit this area now, hit it early on a weekday.  Even with the low levels, you are going to see quite a few power boats in this area on a weekend.  This is a nice easy area to paddle with very little current right now.  There is a portage at Miller Park, so be ready for that.  It is a wood chip path that leads to a small beach opening.  Have fun, and put this drop in on your list!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wastin' Time on The Water

For the first time this season, we put in at Voyager's Landing in Elgin.  The Fox River is pretty tame in this area.  You usually share it with a handful of jetskis ripping around under 90, but other than that, it is pretty empty.  Get in and cut to the other side asap.  That way you don't have to deal with all the fisherman on the west side of the river.

Since we added fishing to our paddling trips, that is all we do while we are out there.  We spent about 5 hours out on the water and covered about 4 miles.  We like to paddle north and stop at South Park to play on the playground and hit the bathroom.  Then we try and head further north from there into West Dundee.  

This time the water north of the bike bridge at South Park was very shallow. We could not find a deep channel so we had to spin around and head back.  The nice part of this area is that there is a strong current.  We just coasted all the way back past the park and into the wider section of the river.

We hung out on the shore for a little while and fished.  It is amazing how time flies when you are just enjoying the water.  It was a great little bank in the shade that we landed we were not too quick to leave.

We love this section of the Fox River.  It is not very populated, and the water is usually pretty calm.  The levels are way down, but it is still worth paddling.  There are a few coves that you can see ducks, herons, and turtles.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

First Fish From The Canoe

With the heat as crazy as it has been, time on the canoe has not been to inviting.  In the time off, I got my fishing license.  My little one has been bugging me to get it s she can catch some 'fishies', so I finally dug some rods outta the attic and bought some tackle.  

We bought some nightcrawlers and headed to Lake Atwood in the Hollows.  We always see fish there and it is a nice calm lake to start on.  We cast our lines and sat out on the lake.  The water is so clear out there, you can watch the fish swim around the worm and check things out.  It wasn't long before we started getting nibbles.  And shortly after that we lost all the worms. The fish that were hitting were such little guys, they could eat the worm around the hook and take off.  We also lost a worm to my littlest.  It became her pet on this trip.......until he made his way to the hook also.

We snagged one fish out of Atwood that day.  It was a little guy, but it was a FISH!  She was so excited to reel it in and she took the crown for The First Fish Caught From The Canoe. Great time!

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Real "Low" Point

With 100 degree temps coming, I decided to hit it and quit it this week.  I ended up launching on the Fox River at the Mchenry dam on Tuesday.  The water levels have been low with the lack of rain, but there is still plenty of water for a canoe!  I launched south of the dam and had to walk the boat out into the water a bit before there was enough water to actually get into the canoe.  Once in, I headed south through the no wake area.

It's boating season, so I knew that I wasn't going to be the only person out on the water....but with the low levels, I knew that there wasn't going to be much traffic.  I knew that I would be cool when I saw a heron around the first bend.  

Coming out of the no wake was when I came across the boating traffic.  There were a few ski boats using that area and taking advantage of the lull in traffic.  A few other boats passed on my 5 mile round trip, but nothing that was crazy.  The one boat that seemed like it was going to leave a killer wake actually left little ripples because of how fast it was going.  It was a sharp looking cat hull with twin outboards.  Great sound coming from it.

Once I got down to DeMar marine, the water got very shallow.  There was one section where two fishermen were in waders in the middle of the river.  In order to stay out of everyone's way I stayed just outside the marked channel, but in this section, I had to stay in the channel because the water outside the channel was only about paddle deep.

I paddled down to rt 176 and turned around under the bridge.  As I was turning around, a fish jumped and hit my palm as I was paddling.  It scared the hell out of me.  I probably looked like a nut job as I jumped and freaked out alone in my canoe.  

Heading back to the dam, I really noticed how low the water was.  It gave the lower river a whole different feel.  It felt like I was on the shores of Michigan or the Door County area.  I had to stop and enjoy the muddy shore / beach.  When a boat would pass, it really took me away with the crashing waves.  It sure didn't feel like I was in Mchenry.

If you have not paddled this area, I suggest you drop in.  You will need a FWA sticker, but it is $15 for the season, so it's no huge expense.  The dam is very cool to see from the lower side.  The water was extremely shallow at the dam, but I was still able to get up and see the different sections of it.  A dam has been in this section of the river since 1887.  In 1907 (picture below), a permanent wooden dam was constructed.  The current dam dates back to 1939.  It is an interested piece of local history and well worth checking out.