For those looking for a quiet paddle with nature near Springfield, Illinois, the Sangamon River is the place. The 8 mile run from Wheeling Park in Riverton to the take out at Riverside Park just north of Springfield provides one with a choice of a quick 2 to 3 hour padding fix or a quite, day long "get back to nature" break.
When the water is low during the summer dry season, many sandbars are exposed, providing good rest stops. When the river is higher, unfortunately muddy banks are about the only stopping point.
Wildlife is plentiful. On this particular day, we saw at least 5 Blue Herons, many other kinds of birds, two deer and a few turtles. Last weekend I even saw a snake! Very few this far north. (For that I'm glad!) The fishing on the river is pretty good as well.
If you don't want to do the full 8-mile trip, you can just put in at Riverside Park and paddle up stream. Most of the time, the current is pretty light.
Both Riverside Park and Wheeling Park have camping facilities. Riverside Stables, just south of Riverside Park will rent canoes and shuttle you from Riverside Park to Wheeling Park. If you bring your own boat, the owners will also shuttle it. Cost of shuttle depends on whether others are renting boats or not.
No fees unless you are renting a canoe. Not sure about fees for camping.
To get to the put in at Wheeling Park, take the Riverton Exit from I-72. Follow this road on through town. Just before crossing the river take a right. Wheeling Park will be at the top on the hill on the left. Take out at Riverside Park north of Springfield. To get there take the Sherman exit from I-55 and go toward Springfield. After crossing the river, Riverside Park will be on your right.
4 meter topo maps of the river. Also, Paddling Illinois.