Trip Report: Hot spots to paddle in Northern Illinois
Although Northern Illinois might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about bucket list kayaking in the United States, it's Jennifer Miksula’s backyard and she knows all the best spots.
Tampier Lake is a tiny little lake, but close enough to get regular laps in and Saganashkee Slough is a man-made lake that gets good winds blowing which Miksula finds great for improving skills. Miksula also accesses the Des Plaines River in summer, paddling upstream until the family is spent and then they take the current back to the car. The Des Plaines River follows the I&M Canal and is popular for foot and pedal traffic as it flows from Chicago down to the Illinois River.
“I started paddling over 20 years ago when I was a park ranger. I actually learned to kayak on springtime snowmelt rivers in the New Mexico mountains. Paddling feels freeing, especially in the 'burbs or city. I feel more connected to the natural world and most importantly disconnected from my corporate job. Paddling on these slower Illinois rivers has given me an appreciation for quietly coasting and enjoying birding during migration season,” notes Miksula.
With a full time career and youngsters, how does Miksula find the time to paddle? “I am lucky to work from home, and during warmer weather I will make sure I schedule myself some time on the water (sometimes during work hours…not gonna lie). I usually make it to the water 5 days a week. My kids paddle as well, but my 7-year-old son Colton fell in love with this sport when he was 4.
Last summer I upgraded him to an Eddyline Rio, as he just wanted more responsiveness than the cheap plastic kids boats. His next upgrade will be a fiberglass paddle (I could use one too lol). He calls his Rio “Doggo” as he is obsessed with dogs, especially our German Shepherds that I train (tracking, obedience, and protection) in IGP (International Euro Style Dog Sport).”
So what’s the next level of paddling for Miksula? “I entered my first race on the Des Plaines River in May. It's just for fun, but I have been conditioning so I can at least do my best. Colton wants to enter some races now too, so I am looking for some kid friendly options in the Midwest. He wants to be 1st no matter the age groups! This summer I plan on Lake Michigan with my Eddyline Sitka, Pictured Rocks (with Colton and their pup Zofia), the Starved Rock area, the Fox River, and I am always up for any suggestions!”
If you see Miksula, kids, and pups on the water, throw up a wave! Happy paddling!