Saturday, August 6, 2011
Between 2 Dams
I made my way down to Elgin, Illinois this weekend. There is a section of the Fox river that passes through Downtown Elgin and continues South into South Elgin. The stretch is only about 6 miles between the dams, but there is a lot to see and it is a transition area from city to residential. You get a taste of both worlds.
I dropped in off rt 31 just south of 20. There is a State Police complex and Elgin Shores County Forest Preserve is right next to it. You drop in on the West side of the river. There is plenty of parking and a concrete launch. I found it easier to just portage from the lot rather than unload at the ramp.
From the launch, it is about a 1.5 mile paddle to the northern dam in Elgin. Right off the bat you pass under rt 20 and 2 railroad bridges. They make a pretty cool crisscross over the river. The bridges are all covered in graffiti too, so you know your coming into a 'down town' area. As you come under the next bridge, you see the metra station on your left and the massive Grand Victoria riverboat casino. It isn't until you are right next to it until you realize how huge this thing is. There is a life boat that is about 12 feet long and it is lost on the lower deck of this floating building.
Once you pass the riverboat, you come under one more bridge and you see the Pace Bus Terminal on your left and a beautiful island park straight ahead. The bus terminal hangs over the river a little and is an interesting building from the water. The island park has a paver lock shore, so if you would like to get out and rest, it would be pretty easy to do so. The park is 2 small islands just south of the dam. I paddled up the West side of the park and hugged the north shore of it near the dam. The current was swift, but not hard to paddle in. And it was plenty deep where as you were not hitting bottom with a normal stroke. I came around the north side of the island and then coasted back down the East side. It was a nice place to take a break and just let the current take you back to the river boat.
Once past the launch again, it is another 1.5 miles to the south dam. This stretch is all river homes and undeveloped shoreline. The water was a mirror all the way to the dam. It was perfect. The dam is marked with buoys, but it is hard to see the actual dam (you are at the top side of the dam). Pay attention and you should not be able to miss the signage.
Coming back north I found a creek on the East side of the river. It is just south of the forest preserve. The mouth of the creek was very shallow, but passable. I would suggest trying it out. It was pretty neat once you got into the creek. Once past the shallow section, it got plenty deep again. The creek winds under a few bridges, and then back into the Welch Bros Concrete property. It got a little eerie back in there. There were some old machinery covered in forest along the shoreline and some things poking into the water. It was like a universal studios movie set back there. I got to a walking bridge and had to turn around due to the current. It was well worth the paddle though. Very interesting little area.
The variety of bridges you pass under on the creek is what made the trip. There was everything from a towering train bridge to an old stone arch. It was pretty cool to see.
This is a great little section to paddle for a few hours. It is about 6 miles of easy paddling and there is a variety of things to see. Like many areas on the edge of a populated city, there is a lot of random trash. I counted 3 shopping carts laying in the shallow water and one TV. The interesting thing about this section is that you can see the transition from city to nature. A Blue Heron sitting on a half submerged shopping cart is oddly beautiful. It is like nature is saying, "Whatever you throw at me, I can handle."
Here is a link to more pics from this trip and other trips on the Fox River.