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Canoe the DuPage


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I live in southwest Naperville, just north of Plainfield. My neighbor has a canoe and we have discussed taking a day trip down the DuPage. Does anyone have a recommendation for drop in and take out points? I am not certain which areas of the river are navigable and where launch of a canoe is allowed. What is the longest stretch of navigable river? Thanks. Jason

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Jason . . . as a member of Prairie State Canoeists, I checked my paddlin' records and found the following info that should be helpful to you and your paddlin' colleague.


DuPage River Water Trails


The DuPage River is a small-to-medium-sized stream flowing north to south through DuPage and Will counties and ending at its confluence with the Des Plaines River in Channahon.


The DuPage consists of east and west branches which meet south of Naperville. Together, they make up eighty-four miles of waterway that drain a watershed of 326 square miles.


The East Branch is largely channelized and the West Branch is mostly natural and meandering. Scenery along its East and West branches is mostly suburban with low grassy banks, while the DuPage itself is mostly rural. The lower part of the West Branch has several developed canoe launch sites. However, both branches are shallow in their upper stretches and occasionally difficult to paddle doe to low water in the summer months.


The upper stretches of both branches run through residential neighborhoods. The upper East Branch resembles a channelized drainage ditch more than a potential recreational resource. Therefore, the upper sections of both branches are not recommended for development as water trails.


West Branch—Beginning at Hawk Hollow Forest Preserve, near Bartlett, the West Branch flows through a number of DuPage County Forest Preserves. The Forest Preserve District is developing a greenway along its banks protecting the river from development and providing a peaceful, wildlife rich experience for paddlers. Log jams across this narrow stream and shallow stretches are occasional obstacles.


Lions Park on Beecher Road in Winfield is the first developed canoe launch. It is followed downstream by at least three more developed launch sites before the DuPage’s confluence with the East Branch making this section very easy to develop as a water trail.


East Branch—The usually canoeable part of the East Branch begins south of Warrenville Road in Lisle. A narrow stream through most of its length, the river flows through a city park in Lisle and Greene Valley Forest Preserve between Woodridge and Naperville making development of access on existing public property possible. There are no developed launch sites on the East Branch.


DuPage River—The confluence of the two branches is approximately one-half mile downstream of the public landing in Knoch Knolls Park, on the south side of Naperville. A Will County forest preserve is planned for a site at 111th St. (the old Zion Church) and may include boat access. However, a long stretch of approximately thirteen miles of private, mostly rural property follows between 111th St. and the Riverside Parkway Canoe Access (just south of Caton Farm Road). Hammel Woods Forest Preserve in Shorewood provides an access site at the dam on the north side of Route 52. Downstream, a short section (approximately one-half mile) located between I-80 and Shepley Road, west of Channahon, has a gradient of ten feet per mile which at higher water levels creates an exciting set of rapids for white water enthusiasts.


During the development of this plan, the dam at Channahon was under reconstruction. A portage route will be needed around the finished structure. The DuPage River Water Trail would end at the I&M Canal State Trail parking lot in Channahon; however, development of a launch site at this location could also serve as access to the I&M Canal and as access to and from the lower Des Plaines one half mile downstream.



Lions Park to McDowell Grove


Skill level: Intermediate to Advanced or Beginner (with an experienced guide)


Length: Approximately 8.5 miles


Directions: This stretch can be divided into three sections, each one safe and easy for those with some paddling experience. The first section lies between Lions Park, on Beecher Avenue, 2 blocks west of Winfield Road, in Winfield; and Blackwell Forest Preserve canoe launch, on the south side of Mack Road, approximately 0.2 miles east of Route 59, in Warrenville. This shallow, quiet water trail flows through Blackwell and West DuPage Woods forest preserves.


The second section continues another 2 miles from the Blackwell Forest Preserve canoe launch, at Mack Road, to Warrenville Grove Forest Preserve, in Warrenville. Expert paddlers can safely run the chute around the right side of the dam during periods of high water. Otherwise, the portage on the right is recommended.


The last section, a 2-mile stretch between Warrenville Grove Forest Preserve and McDowell Grove Forest Preserve, is located on the east side of Raymond Drive, approximately 0.3 miles south of Diehl Road, in Naperville.


Notes: Please respect the privacy of riparian landowners and don't land on private property. Paddlers are advised to avoid this water trail during periods of extreme low water levels. "This trip is best paddled when the Warrenville gage reads between 2.2 and 2.7 feet," according to paddler Allie Mouche.



McDowell Grove to Knock Knolls Park


Skill level: Intermediate to Advanced


Length: Approximately 8.1 miles


Directions: McDowell Grove Forest Preserve is located on the east side of Raymond Road, at McDowell Avenue, in Naperville, just south of the I-88 tollway. Take-out at Knoch Knolls Park, located 1 mile west of Washington Street, on Knoch Knolls Road, in Naperville, near the confluence of the two branches of the river.


Notes: Paddler Allie Mouche reports, "The first half of this trip includes McDowell Dam (portage left), Fawell Dam (portage right), and the popular downtown Naperville Riverwalk and its covered bridges. Some sections of the river here are filled with riffles and will be too shallow to paddle during the driest times of the year. But put-in just after a moderate rain and you're in for a pleasant trip because this stretch is very scenic, even in the heavily settled areas of Naperville. The second half of the trip is mosly secluded, but very shallow. Check your water levels before canoeing. This trip is best paddled when the Naperville gage reads between 6.0 and 7.0 feet."



Knock Knolls Park to Eaton Preserve


Skill level: Beginner to Intermediate


Length: Approximately 6.7 miles


Directions: Take I-55 to Weber Road. Exit north to Naperville Road (left), cross the river and turn left at Ring Road, left again at Knoch Knolls Road, and go less than a mile to the park entrance and the canoe launch. Eaton Preserve is located at 135th Street (Pilchen Road) and just west of Route 59, in Plainfield.


Notes: This trip was made possible in 2003, when the Plainfield Park District completed the public access at 135th Street. This scenic trip is a popular destination for great blue herons, feeding and relaxing from their nesting activities at nearby Lake Renwick.



Eaton Preserve to Riverside Parkway


Skill level: Beginner to Intermediate


Length: Approximately 7.5 miles


Directions: Eaton Preserve is located at the intersection of 135th Street and the DuPage River, near the northern edge of Plainfield. Riverside Parkway boasts the only canoe launch sign visible from busy I-55. Get there by exiting the interstate at Route 30 (west) and following the frontage road south, across Caton Farm Road. Continue alongside I-55 until you reach the right turn into the park and canoe launch area.


Notes: This trip through Plainfield passes within a few hundred yards of the Lake Renwick Heron Rookery. The high concentration of birds on this stretch of the river will please avid birders and paddlers alike.



Riverside Parkway to I & M Canal, Channahon Access


Skill level: Intermediate to Advanced


Length: Approximately 12.9 miles


Directions: Riverside Parkway is located west of the I-55 frontage road, just south of Caton Farm Road. Exit the interstate at Route 30 west, and follow the frontage road south, along the highway. Channahon State Park access to the I & M Canal is located just south of Bridge Street and just below the large dam where the canal and the river join. Take either the Route 6 west exit or Bluff Road west exit from I-55, and turn left onto Canal Street, then right onto Bridge Street.


Notes: A favorite of early-season thrill-seekers, this stretch produces Class II rapids after a good rain. Many whitewater beginners practice surfing in the standing waves near Shepley Road. There are two dams to portage on this trip, and the take-out is awkward, but this is some of the best intermediate paddling northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region has to offer.



DuPage River Greenway


Skill level: Beginner


Length: Approximately 1.1 miles


Directions: This short trip follows the DuPage River Greenway Trail, in Bolingbrook. Put-in just south of Royce Road, west of Route 53. The take-out, at Hidden Lakes Historic Trout Farm, is approximately 0.3 miles north of Boughton Road, 1 mile west of Route 53.


Notes: Recently improved by the Bolingbrook Park District, this stretch offers a scenic float trip for families with young children. The trail still has a few low-hanging branches to avoid, and the take-out “sneaks up” on the left, just before a pedestrian bridge over the river. Beyond the bridge and below the take-out area are several obstacles, including a large pipe across the river, making the downstream section of trail difficult and potentially unsafe for use by novice paddlers.

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jasonh and all others that might canoe the DuPage and other rivers in the Desplaines River watershed area (north east IL). If you go to the Sugar Creek Administration Center, 17540 W. Laraway Road, Joliet, IL (815-727-8700) - that is the road next to Chicagoland Speedway going east. You can get many handouts from the State of Illinois and other agencies for canoe launches in the general watershed area. As for DuPagel canoe launches, go to 135th Street (off Route 59), cross the river, and immediately turn right. There is a parking lot and canoe launch there. There is also a so-called canoe launch just south of the Route 30 river bridge in downtown Plainfield. It is across from the old electric park. It is in the new electric park (east side of river). There is a small park along the river in the subdivision next to the golf course (west of Route 59). Some parking, bad launching area. The next take out is Caton Farm Canoe and Cayak Launch and then you have Hammel Woods take out and walk around the dam and put back in. VERY DANGEROUS DAM! Mitch



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Better yet, why limit yourself to paddlin' the Dupe?!? Join the Prairie State Canoeists (PSC) and enjoy the fellowship of paddlers on many other beautiful rivers in the area.


Suggest interested paddlers with canoes and kayaks check out our website . . . http://www.prairiestatecanoeists.org. You'll find innumerable opportunities to paddle local and more distant rivers during 2009. Unfortunately, with the consistent episodes of high water, a number of our outings have been cancelled for safety reasons.


If you choose to join, the cost of membership is quite reasonable . . . only $20.00 per year for an entire family. You will receive a new member packet, 6 newsletters, and a member directory.


Nice thing about paddlin' with PSC . . . provides an excellent opportunities to scout out smallie habitats for future floatfishing outings.

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