Friday, June 29, 2012
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.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
I wanted to paddle a new lake, so I took a look at the map and was reminded of Round Lake. There is a park on the west side of the lake that has parking and a low shore. That is where I hit the lake from. There was a pretty decent portage across the park from the lot to the lake. Power boats are allowed on Round Lake, so be aware.
From the park, I headed north and caught a little channel on the north shore. The channel forked and neither channel went very far, but it took your mind far away from the lake. They were tight and overgrown. It was a very different feel than the lake.
Back out on the lake, I kept towards the shore. Even 100 feet or so off the shore, the water ranged from 6ft to 2 ft deep. Most of it was hard sand too. The water was clear and you can watch the fish swimming around under you. It was very peaceful. Staying this close to shore kept me from the few powerboats that were out that day. For power boats, it is a counter clockwise lake, but for paddlers, it is a free for all.
The mix of homes on Round Lake was pretty interesting. One section of the lake had a very tall shore with tall pines and homes poking over the ridge. Long stair cases came down through the trees. Then you come up to houses right on the shore with nice lawns and a stretch of beach. Then there would be a run down home that looked like it had seen so many stories over the years. It was pretty interesting to see such a mix of homes on one shoreline.
My favorite part of this lake was the channel at the southwest corner of the lake. This was a very natural area and the trees were covered in vines. The channel became very tight and shallow in one section, with the trees hanging over the water. It felt like I had taken a wrong turn and should be watching for crocodiles in the murky water. The thrashing carp sure didn't help that feeling of something lurking nearby.
This lake is definitely one to return to. It was way cooler than I was expecting. From what I could tell, there was no user fee or sticker required. There was also no rules for parking posted.