Today, we conquered the Kankakee River in Illinois on a cloudless July day with temps at the put-in near 80F, and rocketing to 94F by mid-paddle. It takes a very stalwart and experienced paddle group to accomplish 10.6 miles upstream in 11.5 mph current, and the same distance back for a total paddle for 21.2 miles. The route, from Aroma Park, IL, a town of pop.550 that is just east of Kankakee, IL, to the Momence, IL Bridge and dam is well-described in Mike Svobs Fourth Edition of Paddling Illinois.
We all drove about 90 miles to meet at the put-in at Potowatami Park Rec Area (portapotty, jungle gym equipment) immediately north of the Route 3 bridge in Aroma Park. The river seemed slightly low, but the water was crisp and clearer than most rivers in IL and IN. Throughout the day we spotted many bathers and dozens of aluminum canoe rentals from Reeds Canoes, all using the river as a play spot and swimming hole.
Dvdkitch is the new member of the group, and he pulls in with his sparkling, two-week old QCC 700 Kevlar kayak ready for the sojourn. I immediately could appreciate dvdkitchs experience in paddling over the years, including a stint living on Lake MI and paddling the big pond. Very refreshing to have a paddler that is extremely capable and up to the task at hand for logging some miles in the swelter.
Chuck_IL and Silverwave arrive and, typical for them, are raring to paddle. These paddlers have already logged almost 300 miles each in year 2007, and its only July. They are well geared with a Valley Avocet RM and Bohemias old Necky Chatham 17, respectively, but with sweet new yellow deck lines and are ready to tangle with the Kank.
Pnetter Bruce rounds out the team, the senior paddler in our group, a wiry figure that is all muscle and powered like a steam engine by a hot inner fire to perform, and a couple packs of strawberry Swisher Sweets. Bruces playboat of choice: a Valley Aquanaut RM. Yours truly, cooldoctor1, got up at 5AM just from the excitement of paddling my red Nordkapp RM with these convivial paddlers.
We launch around 9:30AM , just as the day heats up and humidity climbs on this windless morning. The paddle northeast to Momence is a slow, steady slog, with at least 4-5 areas of very low water in the 6 inch range that not only speeds the current, but leaves the bottoms of no boatincluding the pretty QCCunscathed. We manage only a slow crawl through most of these shallows but never a complete stop, although on more than one occasion I decided to walk/float the boat as a quicker alternative to smashing my Werner Shuna against the stony bottom. The team pushed on, taking only one 20 minute break at riverside during the upstream portion of the trip for a stretch and dvdkitch, Chuck-IL and S-wave took a swim. Pleased to see all team members heeded the recommendation to bring and drink plenty of fluid refreshment.
Hours after the put-in, we see the faint cast of a bridge, and then the dam of Momence. This sweaty pack of exhausted paddlers had accomplished the goal, to make the upstream passage to Momence. There is not a great takeout at the dam or bridge (Svob mentions one slightly further upstream), so we wallowed in the mud on a goose pooped tiny island in the sun and heat for about ten minutes and then decided, as it was after 2:30PM, to head south to home for the second 10.2 Google Earthed miles of the trip: the downstream passage. Although the current was an assist, a cooling headwind seemed to work against us like a slight backward nudge of Mother Nature getting her jollies at our expense. Yet by 4PM or so we did finally hit Skeeters, an outside pub restaurant with a deck overlooking the river and parking for the kayaks and canoes, and we took a one hour break. Dvdkitch had to, unfortunately, get rolling, so he paddled on solo. We would have enjoyed your company for Anchor Weisse pitchers, fried Portobello mushrooms, potato skins and Skeeter Burgers under the shady riverside deck. Definitely next time, dvdkitch. Plenty of laughs from our punch-drunk, sun whipped team as we chowed for the first real time all day at Skeeters, a must stop for any paddler on this stretch of the Kank.
Leaving the bar, while entering the boats riverside, a chocolate Lab with an experienced canoe paddler at the helm of a Sea Wind shouts out, One of you Bruce? We all get the pleasure of meeting and paddling back with Hoosierpaddler from Indiana. A very welcome treat, and hes been on the Kank since 3pm and located us around 5pm staggering out of Skeeters. Wonderful to meet you, hoosierpaddler.
Finally, we build momentum again, juiced from the ale and grub, and paddled the remaining approximately four miles toward the Aroma Park take-out. I caught a vibe, just as Bruce had on the way to Momence, and simply ground it out solo, humming, for some odd sun-baked-brain reason, Jimmy Buffets Come Monday while I stroked the Shuna. Just when it was Come Monday, itll be alright, I ran that Valley aground so hard it buckled the plastic in on my heels. A small underwater dam and I prayed not to find QCC arctic hull white from the previous passage of dvdkitch. I saw none.
Extremely proficient and dedicated team to manage 21.2 miles in 94F heat all day.
Aroma Park Rec Area has portapotties, soda machines, and play equipment as well as picnic tables.
I-74 to exit 312 in Kankakee, turn east for about 1 mile, then south on Lowe's Road, to Aroma Park, then follow the signs to the river.
"Paddling Illinois" by Mike Svob, Fourth Edition, page 70.