Last Saturday I explored a new (for me) paddling venue—Churchill Woods Forest Preserve just west of I-355 and north of I-88 in the western suburbs. The lake is a result of the dammed East DuPage River (on the SE side under Crescent Blvd.) and spans about ¾ of a mile from west to east. Multiple islands on this small body of water make it very intimate and you're never far from shore so there's always something interesting to look at. North and South sections are basically separate lakes. Multiple channels reminded me of paddling in the everglades just no mangroves here and the water is not salty. Plenty of wildlife to observe and very few people at this remote hidden site. I saw at least two different kinds of herons, Canadian Geese and probably hundreds of turtles of all shapes and sizes. I know frogs are sign of clean water—I wonder if the multitude of turtles here says anything about the condition of this lake.
The water was somewhat high on that day and I had no trouble navigating narrow passages. Every once in a while I would scrape soft bottom and pull up black mud on the paddles but never got stuck. The story may be different when the levels get low. Water, although murky, felt clean which I can't say about the banks. There was plenty of evidence that humans live near these shores. I came home with a brand new Final Four basketball! As I was crossing a particularly shallow spot on the NW side, all of a sudden there was a lot of commotion in the water. Moving on it got worse. Several explosions in the water sent mud onto the deck of my kayak as well as the spray skirt as dozens of fish of some kind—carp I would guess—scurried away from the perceived danger. Very entertaining…
After exploring the 'lake' with its multiple off-shoots I turned into the DuPage itself. It is very narrow and deep for the first mile or so upstream from Churchill Woods. Very lively and clean stream much unlike the slow, shallow and wide West Branch near my home paddling grounds in Naperville. The banks are all overgrown with trees and shrubs—once again reminiscent of the tree and root tunnels of the Everglades. After turning left and right as I followed the river bed up the stream I came upon a banged up aluminum boat half-filled with water. It was probably washed off of somebody's back yard during the recent storms. We surely did not have shortage of those lately. There was graffiti on the inside suggesting a different story altogether. The row boat was stuck under the trees in a remote spot where no one was likely to find it for a long time. I dragged it from under the branches and set it adrift while I explored further upstream. On the way back, I towed the dingy to the put-in area where someone will hopefully claim it. The boat was not registered so I did not know quite what to do with it.
Peaceful afternoon of paddling with plenty of wildlife and entertainment. If you're looking for a peaceful paddling spot in the near-West suburbs, I would recommend locating Churchill Woods on the map.