From the Illinois Tollway website:
DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. – The Illinois Tollway will temporarily block travel on the Fox River under the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) beginning Thursday, June 18, for demolition of the westbound Fox River Bridge as part of the I-88 Rebuild & Widen Project between the Aurora Toll Plaza and Orchard Road.
Barges will be in place all the way across the Fox River for bridge demolition activities scheduled to be complete in early July. Paddlers are advised to either enter the river downstream from the work zone or be prepared to portage around the construction zone. The designated portage location will be on the west side of the river upstream of the Tollway project area. Boaters and other recreational users should use the Fox River Trail West parallel to the river and re-enter the river south of the bridge at the designated location. This will require paddlers to carry their boats up to 1,000 feet to re-enter the river. The Tollway will post signs along the river and at public river access locations. Signage and buoys will direct canoe and kayak traffic toward portage areas and away from the demolition area. Upon completion of the demolition work paddlers will be restricted to the west side of the Fox River due to the installation of a temporary construction bridge on the east side of the river.
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To view a slide show with many more photos courtesy of Denis Jones: click here.
Dan Plath, founder of the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association, has been an incredible bundle of energy recently on behalf of the region's paddling community. He and his group are setting the standard for paddling clubs like CASKA and the Illinois Paddling Council.
Expedition put-in at 12th Street Beach
We were riding back from the take-out in a battered pickup truck with our whitewater boats bouncing around with each rut in the road. My instructor for the day was saying half jokingly that what whitewater paddlers fear the most is flat water and I had an "ah hah" moment. I realized that as a sea kayaker I've come to love both flat and bumpy water in equal measures. This is my account of my first true introduction to whitewater paddling. While I had been in whitewater once before, earlier this year on the Menominee River, it was in a sea kayak and not a whitewater boat.
Trail in Ohiopyle
Ohiopyle is best known, however, for its whitewater paddling. It is located on the Youghiogheny River, which begins in West Virginia and winds its way north through and around numerous ridges in Maryland and Pennsylvania until it flows into the Monongahela River a few miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
Yough as it flows into Ohiopyle
Folks spoke of the upper Yough in hushed tones, saying it was full of Class V rapids and was for experts only. The middle Yough, which flows from Confluence, Pennsylvania to Ohiopyle, is Class I and II water, perfect for floating downriver in a raft with legs dangling over the edge. The lower Yough, which begins in Ohiopyle, offers an intermediate area of Class II to IV rapids. It is challenging but not punishing to experienced whitewater paddlers.
The Yough makes a big loop just downriver from Ohiopyle. Whitewater paddlers are able to put in just south of Ohiopyle Falls, paddle through several sets of rapids and then take out near a railroad bridge about a half-mile from the put-in. It is common to see paddlers lugging their boats and paddles down a well-trod path through the woods and back to town, anxious to give the rapids another shot.
Going Back For More
Another option is to run the entire 7 mile-plus stretch of the lower Yough and then catch a shuttle back to the put-in. Ohiopyle has several rafting and kayaking outfitters able to provide shuttles and other services. Wilderness Voyagers appears to offer the most support for kayakers. It has a nice shop on river's edge just across the highway bridge from downtown Ohiopyle. Falls City Pub, a nice tavern, is just down the street and is often full of guides and weathered outdoors enthusiasts. Note that the outfitters generally do not rent kayaks, but require that they have a guide along on any trip using their boats.
The rest of our group were not paddlers, so on the second day we went down the lower Yough in a raft. Our guide at the stern did most of the work steering the raft, but fooled us into thinking we were contributing by barking commands to have us paddle this way and that. The thump of the raft hitting water hard, the repeat drenchings as we plowed through the waves, and the screams of the Girl Scouts in the rafts ahead made the trip fun and exhilarating.
We passed some whitewater paddlers along the way and I did feel a pang of envy. As all the kayak outfitters in town were booked the next day, I arranged a one day introduction to whitewater kayaking through Riversport School of Paddling, a quality outfitter in nearby Confluence (home of Immersion Research).
The next day I appeared at the outfitter. They sized me up, took stock of my limited, one-time experience in white water--and that in a sea kayak--and sent me to the Yough River Lake for a skills assessment with my instructor for the day.
There, I got into a whitewater boat for the first time. It was a bizarre experience. We sea kayakers struggle to turn our kayaks by edging and sweep strokes. In the whitewater boat I felt I could turn as easily as a top. A flick of my paddle in the water and I turned 180 degrees. My first impression from the maneuverability of the whitewater kayak and its short length was that I was in some sort of toy kayak. I giggled at the sheer playfulness of the boat.
We practiced some basic maneuvers. I learned that whitewater paddlers lean into their turns--carving--rather than edge away from them as we do. I practiced sweeps where I shifted my edge from one side to the other mid-sweep. This was an important and counter-intuitive foundation for eddy turns and other maneuvers.
We moved on to rolling. I found that the flat-bottomed whitewater boats seemed a bit harder to roll than the typical sea kayak. My instructor encouraged me to keep the paddle forward and to push my weight up forward as well when rolling. One's head should be tucked forward as much as possible during the roll. He said the sweep rolls we sea kayakers practice expose the head to underwater rocks and don't take advantage of the extra buoyancy built into the front half of a whitewater boat. For the record, I hit all my rolls, but many were ugly.
After packing a quick lunch we headed for the Cassleman River. It is not runnable much of the year, but due to high water levels it offered us about 7 miles of near-continuous but relatively modest rapids. My guide thought I would learn more whitewater paddling basics in this stretch of river than I would merely surviving a lower Yough run during high water. Feeling a bit unsure in an unfamiliar type of boat, I decided not to argue with him. Another guide accompanied us as we wound our way on narrow roads through the high country to the put-in. The two of them appeared to be competing over who could say "Dude" more often--e.g., "Dude, you were supposed to be my wingman at the bar last night." The life of a guide can be fun, for a couple of summers at least, but it is tough way to make a living.
The Casselman turned out to be perfect. We spent about 4 hours practicing eddy turns, peel outs, ferrying and the like. The first hour or so was quite difficult. I didn't "get" the boat or the conditions. I found myself edging the wrong way, failing to edge enough, and generally fighting the boat and the river with slaps of my paddle to no good end. My instructor sensed my frustration and called a break. We humped the boats up the rocky shore and had a good snack and a chat about nothing.
When I got back on the water it was if the slate had been wiped clean. I started playing rather than working on my technique and that made all the difference. Soon, I was scooting from riverbank to riverbank as we worked our way downstream. We would slip into an eddy and then ferry back and forth, surfing on standing waves along the way. Sensing that I was starting to get it, my instructor let me take the lead and pick my own course through the rapids. Despite a few too close encounters with barely submerged rocks, I think I did a pretty good job reading the water.
I have certain iconic images I associate with my kayaking. One is the view across Montrose beach and the curling waves while playing in the surf under the reddish glow of sunset. Another is the sight of an island in the distance when starting a crossing. As I result of this trip I now add the view from the top of a set of rapids at that moment when one must visually capture the scene and mentally draw a course through the churning water to the pool below. I really like the challenge of setting a course within a matter of seconds and then making the quick adjustments as necessary as the each rapids reveals its surprises.
Lower Yough at edge of Ohiopyle Falls
The maneuverability of a whitewater boat was a real pleasure. It was great to be able to make swift and often large course changes without too much effort. I also found that the flat and wide whitewater boats were quite stable. When I plowed into standing waves the boat was especially steady. I felt like I was sitting on top of a sturdy desk and did not have to brace nearly as often or as hard as I would have done had I been in a sea kayak.
I didn't have to practice rolling the whitewater boat in conditions. I need some more rolling practice in calm water before I will feel as confident rolling a whitewater boat as I do a sea kayak. I certainly wouldn't want to wet exit. While I could just fit my legs in my boat, I was wedged in tight. Getting out of my boat, while doable, would have been a chore in conditions.
I got back to the outfitters in Confluence about 4 p.m. I had 11 miles and 2.5 hours to get back to Ohiopyle in time for dinner so I took off down the trail that followed the Yough, alternately jogging and walking. On the other side of the river freight trains were running, but they could be barely seen through the canopy of trees. The sound of their whistles filled the valley and sometimes echoed. The smooth path allowed me to concentrate on the trees, the small waterfalls and the sound of the river as I pushed ahead. Dinner tasted especially good that night.
I'm certainly in no danger of abandoning sea kayaking for whitewater paddling. I would miss the steady, meditative cadence that develops when paddling a long boat on big water. The wiggly nature of a whitewater board in flat water can get pretty irritating after awhile. However, after a day in a whitewater boat on a beautiful river, I'm hooked enough that I want to supplement sea kayaking with some more whitewater paddling. I'd like to get back to Ohiopyle, hopefully with a few like-minded kayakers, for a few days of paddling, biking and hiking. The area is a pile of fun.
Check them out here: http://caskaorg.typepad.com/caska/for-sale-from-caska-membe.html
and check back for updates. Looks like more may be on the way soon. This might be a good time for shoppers to snag some great deals!
Join us for the fourth annual Traditional Paddlers Gathering, set for September 11-13 at Crow Wing Crest Lodge in Akeley, MN.
The Gathering is a great opportunity to:
* learn new paddling and rolling skills,
* show off your efforts to build qajaqs, tuiliqs, paddles and harpoons,
* get tips from other builders,
* relax at a homey and comfortable family-owned northern Minnesota resort with a lakeside sauna.
As always, the weekend will feature a rolling demonstration, a harpoon contest, a silent auction and raffle, great meals, and plenty of one-on-one instruction to help you refine your paddling or rolling technique.
Find out more about registration and accommodations — plus see pictures from past years — at http://www.qajaqmn.org/
By: Ginger Carey
I just want to share my experience with one of them in the club. Yesterday I was launching on the North Shore Channel at the Lincoln launch north of Peterson. I had previously checked it out thinking in terms of getting my kayak to & from it and getting it in & out of the water alone, but I had not carefully considered how it would be to get in & out of my kayak alone. Once I got my kayak in the water and began to analyze the situation I realized that it was not going to be easy to be stable while getting in because of the slope of the bank. There happened to be a kayaker paddling north, so I flagged him down and asked if he could stabilize my kayak while I got in, which he graciously did.
I was going south and he turned around to return to his launch near Addison so we paddled together for awhile until I turned around at Lawrence to paddle north. He expressed concern about my getting out at my launch which I realistically shared, so I figured there was a high probability of some degree of immersion, not an attractive thought in view of the pollution.
I was hoping there would be someone around upon my return—fisherman, other kayakers, or someone walking up above on the bridge who I could flag down somehow.I got there and there was no one, and so I paddled north for awhile up to Pratt or so, thinking that maybe someone would be around upon my return. And lo and behold there was—Jan Archer who had been the kayaker passing by when I launched. I spotted him from a distance walking down the switchback. First I just thought he was just someone, and then I realized it was him. In his concern for me, after loading up his kayak, he drove up to my launch site even though he lived very near his launch. It was certainly not a life & death situation, although partial immersion in the pollution may have had its share of health perils—but I sure appreciated not having had to try it out.
So I just want to express my appreciation to Jan and acknowledge him to the rest of the club (Chicago Area Sea Kayakers Association (CASKA). I understand that he is one of the Board Members. It really is wonderful to engage in a sport where we all seem to watch out for one another, and not just when there is a tremendous risk involved. I think there’s something about being out communing with nature, feeling our connectivity to all forms of life, that draws out this wonderful spirit in us. I certainly want to celebrate it!
Of course, I would also like to give a warning—that launch site is certainly not conducive to a solo launch, but it is workable when there are two or more, so you can stabilize one another.
So, thanks Jan, and all who are thoughtful of others in so many countless ways.