By Mary Fairchild
(Mary Fairchild, Tom Bamonte, Sarah Hartman, and Joe Keller)
"Swift tidal currents and tide races can so alter the game that in dealing with them, river experience may be more valuable than knowledge of the open sea." John Dowd
On Saturday, Tom Bamonte led our fleet of 5 from theYorkville put-in at the head of Illinois' first whitewater course. The park is open, but it has not had its official grand opening yet and some construction is still under way.
"I just finished teaching an instructor development workshop at the Yorkville IL whitewater park. Amazing facility with flatwater to class two, plus fun surf waves, all within fifty feet of a classroom... It's the most teaching-friendly of the (20+) whitewater parks I've paddled, like 5 miles of class II river features jammed into a city park." Kent Ford Inductee, Whitewater Hall of Fame
(Joe Keller and Tom Bamonte)
Our plan was to paddle upstream to work on our forward stroke and an appetite, have lunch in town, and then play in the Yorkville whitewater course with either sea kayaks or whitewater boats.
As we paddled, our group came to the conclusion that we all would enjoy practicing a few rescue scenerios on our trip downriver. I originally had hoped to bring a new paddler along and I told Tom we most likely would have practiced some towing in the current with her. The five of us all appeared to truly love kayaking and part of our love for the sport is encouraging and helping others not only to love it as much, but to stay safe and become more proficient at it. We were a very "like-minded" group.
"I agree with what you say about a group of like minded people getting together to do what they love. It is a great exchange of positive energy, and that is definitely what we had yesterday!" Chuck Stark
(Sarah Hartman, Mary Fairchild, Tom Bamonte, and Joe Keller)
We stopped for a break before heading back downriver. This is where we were sharing some of our thoughts about the interesting history of kayaking. I was quoting the video clip ad on YouTube for "The Call of the River" here where one man was trying to talk about whitewater paddling but got off on a tangent about how "girls were going after him." We laughed, and, the tangent aside, noted that women "seriously" do enjoy "the sport" as much as men.
(Tom Bamonte, Sarah Hartman, and Joe Keller)
Before we knew it, Sarah noted the horizon was dropping off which indicated the dam was getting near. Within a few minutes we could hear the water rushing and clearly see the park.
Jim Tibensky was our surprise vistitor for the outing. Jim's credentials include sprint, marathon, wildwater and slalom racing. Not only did he coach the US Junior Slalom Team at the US Olympic Sports Festival, but from 1979-1994, he taught whitewater paddling at the Madawaska Kanu Centre in Ontario, one of the world’s leading schools for whitewater paddling.
(Chuck Stark, and Ryan Rushton with customers)
"I am very happy I have become involved with CASKA! Because of it I have been introduced to some great people and fun paddling opportunities, and I have a strong resolution to become a better and safer paddler. For someone who moved here only months ago, CASKA has done wonderful things to bring me in to the "know" or "loop" of Chicago area kayaking!" Chuck Stark
Chuck took this shot of Tom just in time....
"...both of us (he and Tom) were required to do some combat rolls and we both wet-exited at one point. The river felt that we needed to be humbled, and it did its job in great style, unlike us...I also have gained an increasingly large amount of respect for what is there the more times I have paddled it. It offers a wonderful variety of features and options, and one can spend hours in it practicing all kinds of maneuvers. Some areas offer higher consequences than others. All-in-all, it presents an excellent opportunity for paddlers in this area!" Chuck Stark
I took the demo SUP board upriver and was the only who stayed "high and dry" this time. I'm looking forward to checking into one of Ryan's whitewater classes this summer to get a few more details down before I dive in.
In Illinois, the Fox is a controlled river with many dams, Yorkville's being the most infamous. The Fox River meanders south from the Wisconsin border until it nears Yorkville. From Yorkville, the river takes a westerly course until just past Silver Springs State Park. After the state park, the river continues south until meeting the Illinois River. The lower Fox between Sheridan and Wedron is sometimes referred to as the Illinois Dells because of the cliffs and scenery and is the section most often paddled.
Tom and I shared a similar story from when we first started kayaking. We were both inspired by people who had written articles about a certain kayak trip. More recently, I've been inspired by a trip that Tom has reported on in Maine.
This was my first CASKA outing. I keep a canoe and recreational boats at my cabin in Wisconsin and I wasn't sure if I'd store my new boat there or not until I went on this outing--the answer is a definite NOT.
1) Fox River: Chicago Area Paddling/FishingGuide
2) "Sea Kayaking: A Manual For Long-Distance Touring," John Dowd
3) Geneva Kayak Center Newsletter, February 2011.
4) Silver Springs State Park
5) Geneva Kayak Center
6) Kent Ford
7) Pictures courtesy of Chuck Stark and Barry Atkinson.