11+ mile paddle from Sedge Meadow Forest Preserve Canoe Launch to Independence Grove Forest Preserve.
I just moved here from California over the winter so it was my first trip on the Des Plaines River (DPR). It was also my first river paddle with my RIOT Edge 14.5 kayak.
Due to heavy rains in the preceding weeks, the river was about three feet higher than normal with a flow rate about six times greater than the median [waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?05528000]. Although I've never paddled this river before, I suspect the high water was more of a blessing than a curse for this section of the river. This stretch is densely spotted with beaver dams and log jams which would normally require portage. You can read about it from the other DPR reviewers. I was able to navigate all of them without portaging, but with substantial effort.
It seemed as though I was on an extended, flat-water slalom course. It was a lot of fun at first, but it became tiring and tedious after several miles (but better than portaging over every blockage). By the time I got to the half-way point at Gowe Park in Gurnee, I was already feeling pretty tired.
Despite the fact that most of this section of the river is within audible range of several large roads and highways, the DPR is very lovely little Midwestern river, and a great way to get away without having to travel too far from the city. I saw several mallards, herons, egrets, and other wildlife.
All-in-all, it was a very pleasant experience. In the future, I will explore more of the southern sections of the DPR which are reportedly clear of the deadfall.
$6 IL Water Usage Stamp
Sedge Meadow and Independence Grove Forest Preserves respectively
Lake County Forest Preserve website [http://www.lcfpd.org/preserves]