River Level (@ Byron): 3650cfs 5.63ft
Weather: Low 50's to mid 80's
Light Winds 5-10mph
Six paddlers in solo canes headed out from Hinchliff FP, located at the mouth of the Kishwaukee River, after shuttling vehicles and loading up their boats. The put in, at Hinchliff FP, is one of the designated camp sites on the Rock River Trail (RRT). The weather was perfect and our spirits were high. The water level was a bit low, but that alone would not dampen our adventurous spirit.
We were not the first paddlers to set out on a Rock River camping trip, nor will be the last. But there was something about possibly being the first paddlers to utilize the Rock River Trail designated camp sites. We would be the first at something, not quite Lewis & Clark, but maybe the "Lenny Brigade".
Onto the Rock from the Kishwaukee, we were adventurers in our own right. We encountered several bald eagles, we believed that two of them were playing leap frog with us as we progressed down river, much the way blue herons do on many of our trips. Shortly after heading out, on river left, were some nice limestone "bluffettes" reminiscent of the "Dells section of the Lower Fox". Not quite as impressive as the Dells, but unexpected, a nice treat.
The river in this stretch has many islands and lots of tree shaded banks to paddle under to escape the hot sun. On this stretch, you also do not encounter road bridges or a lot of traffic, aside from Rt.72 & the RxR bridges, this stretch is bridge-less. As you approach Byron,IL you are treated to two old RxR bridges. If you like old RxR bridges, you would love these, another treat.
After the second RxR bridge near Byron, and before Rt.72, on river left is the RRT camp site. The camp site is well signed and is easily seen from the river. There is also a RRT sign on the RxR bridge pier on river left directing you to the camp site. The camp site area was recently mowed, had two fire rings; one picnic table; trash can and a clean portable toilet. Very nice for a rustic camp site, thanks to the Byron Park District, we even had our group photo taken for the local paper. Tents were pitched, tarp was hung, relaxing in the shade by the river was definitely the order of the afternoon. Soon after a fire was started, dinners were consumed and great conversation followed.
It was indeed a good day. Life was Good.
We had a lazy start to the next day. We set a time to shove off, had a relaxing breakfast, another small fire, loaded up the boats and off we went, and only a few minutes past our agreed time to leave. The day started off good, although the river had changed a little from the upstream section, it was still nice.
With no road bridges crossing the river, although the river runs between Rt.2 & River Rd. the road noise was minimal. There was also opportunities for brief respite at the many road side pull off's along Rt.2. There was also still plenty of shade trees to paddle under to escape the sun, but occasionally the sun felt good. There was also an occasional breeze blowing across the river to cool us off. There were also many islands, but the lower water level, and the need to progress, made exploring them being saved for "next time".
The wildlife, not recreational boaters, was also lacking on this stretch. We're sure, due to the 'noise' level on this stretch of the river. Being the perfect day it was, there were many others enjoying the river besides us. With all the other recreational activity going on around us, paddling this stretch provided many opportunities for patience and excellent practice for Lake Michigan or the Mississippi River (lots of waves).
But we persevered, and as we had already seen, the Oregon Park East access and the approaching dam was well signed with the RRT signs. This day had been a little long, with all the waves and boaters, so we were glad to see Oregon. But despite this, we had another great day on the water.
The only thing we would change would be to do this trip mid-week instead the 'perfect' weekend. But a good time was had by all.
Thanks to Kris & Gary for the car shifts. And a special thanks to Gary for the upfront work he did for this trip. He was our local 'go to guy' in making this trip a success, with the connecting with the Byron Park District, delivering firewood, scouting the camp site, etc.. Thanks Gary. And thanks to "Lenny" the dog, our protector from all sorts of beasties.