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Category: Stewardship

Cleanup Corner: Cleanup Dates


Wow, its only March, and already there are more than 20 cleanups on the calendar. Water TrailKeepers is happy to partner with other organizations, promote stewardship activities, recruit volunteers, and when we can provide additional support. Contact WTK Program manager Tom Eckels at program-manager@watertrailkeepers.org to add your event to the calendar.


  • April 3, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • April 30, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • May 14, Willow Creek Cleanup
  • May 15, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • June 4, Little Calumet River
  • June 11, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • July 9, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • July 23, Fox River in St Charles
  • July 31, Pecatonica River Cleanup
  • Aug 6, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • Aug 6, Fox River in Oswego
  • August, Date TBD, Kishwaukee River in Boon County
  • Sept 10, Rock River Sweep
  • Sept 10, Upper DesPlaines River between Cook and Lake County
  • Sept 10, Willow Creek Cleanup
  • Sept 17, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • Sept 17, Fox River in Algonquin ‘River Days’
  • Oct 8, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • Oct 29, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • Nov 12, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • Dec 3, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD

Beware The Fishhook!

By Don Mueggenborgfish hook

It was an early spring day – sun shining, water up a little.

Time to get the rust off, get out on the river. In this case, it was the lower DesPlaines.

We launched at our favorite spot in Lemont and headed upstream. Peanut Butter Andersen in the stern.

When we paddled together, we took turns paddling bow or stern. That way we were more aware of what the other paddler has to do. And the stern paddler doesn’t have to be reminded to call the “hut” because next time he will be in the bow.

About twenty minutes into the trip, we decided to go up Hennebry Creek. A narrow creek that winds from the RR tracks to the river – actually – in the right conditions, we might paddle into the Waterfall Glenn Forest Preserve (never have found the right conditions though).

Saw some beaver signs, birds, and a deer. Great to be out!

Time to head back home.

As we approached the river, we swung under a branch. Fortunately, we were not going very fast.

I felt it – like a sting on the ear. “Dave, I think I know what a fish feels like when he is caught. I think I have a fishhook in my ear.”

Who knows how long that line and hook were dangling from the branch. I guess I was lucky it had been a long time. The line broke without tearing my ear and without pulling me into the water.

Now, we picked up racing speed – to the truck and to the doctor’s office.

“Nurse,” the doctor whispered, “get the pliers out of the janitor’s closet.”

A couple stitches, a tetanus shot. I was free to go.

I was lucky. It could have been an eye. Beware, especially in the spring. Fishermen don’t really want to snag trees and catch paddlers – but it can happen.

Paddle Green Earth Day Cleanup

Greetings and Happy New Year!

This spring the ACA is coordinating a Paddle Green Earth Day Cleanup weekend watershed cleanup. As an incentive for groups to host a cleanup, the ACA is offering a chance to win a weekend of free instruction in SUP, Canoe, or Kayak from an ACA Instructor Trainer. We are asking ACA State Directors to help us get the word out to the community so that together we can clean up our watersheds and raise awareness about water quality issues.

Who can host an event?

Any ACA member, PAC, of OLG may host a cleanup event and be registered to win a weekend of instruction for the group. Volunteers helping in the cleanup do not have to be ACA members.

Where should cleanups be held?

Cleanups can take place on any waterway, streams, rivers, bay, ocean, estuary, lake….. We encourage paddlers to remove marine debris from areas that are only accessible by boat for a part of the cleanup.

When should these cleanups be scheduled?

Paddle Green Earth Day Cleanups should be scheduled any of the following days: Friday April 22nd through Sunday April 24th, 2016.

What are the incentives for hosting a cleanup?

The ACA will provide two prizes as incentives to participating groups in the Paddle Green Earth Day Cleanup. The first prize will be given to the group that removes the most Marine Debris. The second prize will be drawn at random from the list of groups that report an eligible cleanup. Each incentive will be a weekend (two 6 hour days) of skills training to any group (not more than 10 persons in a training each day). Groups can choose courses from the canoe, coastal kayak, or SUP disciplines. Skills courses must be held in 2016. The ACA will provide the Instructor Trainer for the skills course(s). Course Participants must provide their own boats, gear, and transportation.

How can my group become eligible to win a weekend of skills training?

Groups can become eligible for the incentives by:

  • Register your cleanup online by visiting the website and submitting a completed registration form. Your cleanup will be posted to the ACA calendar.
  • Engaging a minimum of 10 volunteers in a waterway marine debris clean up on April 22nd, 23rd, or 24th, 2016.
  • Each volunteer must pick up at least 1 paddle Green Bag (or the equivalent) of Marine Debris from a waterway and dispose of it properly.
  • Each group must submit a completed cleanup report form to the ACA using either the online report form, or by submitting a paper report form by April 29th 2016.
  • Each group’s report must include a picture of the cleanup activities and a brief (250 words +/-) description of your cleanup project to be posted on the ACA webpage, showing your group’s stewardship work. (Due April 29, 2016)

When will groups know if they received the incentive?

Recipients will be selected at random at the ACA office on May 2, and will be notified by email by May 6, 2016.

We look forward to your participation in keeping our waterways clean and healthy!

A Jewel on the south side has finally been discovered

By Michael Taylor

No motor boats, no barges, and deep enough not to scratch the bottom of your boat.  Finally the secret of a beautiful flowing river in the southern suburbs of Chicago has been rediscovered.  In the fall of 2015, the Cook County Forest Preserve opened a new boat ramp along the Little Calumet River at the Kickapoo Woods Forest Preserves.  The immediate feedback from paddlers and novice alike was that it is a perfect venue.  Kickapoo Woods offers plenty of parking in a safe, well-lit area for paddlers to enjoy.  Not only does the new launch site offer easy, safe access to the river, but the location along the shallow portion of the Upper Little Calumet River makes it a perfect place for beginner and intermediate paddlers.  Meander is the perfect verb and noun describing the paddling experience on this section of the river.  The river bends and curves, and on most days, the river’s flow is calm enough to offer a gentle riding experience in the great outdoors.

Join the coalition of outdoor enthusiasts and community organizations in not only a river clean up, but an introduction to both canoeing and kayaking on this gem in the southern suburbs. Saturday morning, June 4 2016, is the day of the “Little Calumet River Day at Kickapoo Woods;” please join us on exploring this secret south side treasure.

Cleanup Corner

Time to Plan for 2016 Cleanup Season

Another successful cleanup season is winding down.  Thanks everyone who organized and participated! 

Now it is time to start planning for Next Year! In addition to leading our own cleanups, Water TrailKeepers can partner with and assist other efforts as well.  We are happy to publicize any waterway stewardship event. 

It’s Gift Giving Season

By Sigrid Pilgrim




Give a gift membership to any one of these national, state, and local organizations.

Many come with interesting monthly magazines as well. Read more about each on their websites. Then chose one or more for the gift membership that best fits you and your recipient’s interests.

THE NATURE CONSERVANCYwww.nature.org/ – its mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Their vision is a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill our needs and enrich our lives. Chapters are located in all 50 states and 35 countries. Closer to home, the organization has recently reintroduced Bison in the Nachusa Grasslands Preserve.

NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCILwww.nrdc.org – is the nation’s most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of more than 2 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of nearly 500 lawyers, scientists and other professionals.

SIERRA CLUBwww.sierraclub.org – Founded by legendary conservationist John Muir in 1892, the Sierra Club is now the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization — with more than two million members and supporters. Successes range from protecting millions of acres of wilderness to helping pass the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act.

AMERICAN RIVERSwww.americanrivers.org – protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers®

RIVER NETWORKwww.rivernetwork.org – envisions a future of clean and ample water for people and nature, where local caretakers are well-equipped, effective and courageous champions for our rivers by empowering and uniting people and communities to protect and restore rivers and other waters that sustain all life. River Network’s work is primarily focused on helping small and medium size organizations working at the local level who provide a voice for the needs of specific rivers and their watersheds by providing resources and expertise in three areas essential to healthy rivers.

AMERICAN WHITEWATERwww.americanwhitewater.org – conserves and restores America’s whitewater resources and works to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely. The organization is the primary advocate for the preservation and protection of whitewater rivers throughout the United States, and connects the interests of human-powered recreational river users with ecological and science-based data to achieve the goals within its mission.

AMERICAN CANOE ASSOCIATIONwww.americancanoe.org – founded in 1880, is the oldest sports association in the U.S serving the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling; stewardship support to help protect paddling environments; and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddlesport competition, exploration and recreation.

PRAIRIE RIVERS NETWORKSwww.prairierivers.org – advocate for clean water and healthy rivers in Illinois. PRN champions clean, healthy rivers and lakes and safe drinking water to benefit the people and wildlife of Illinois. Drawing upon sound science and working cooperatively with others, PRN advocates public policies and cultural values that sustain the ecological health and biological diversity of water resources and aquatic ecosystems.

ALLIANCE FOR THE GREAT LAKESwww.greatlakes.org – the organization’s mission is to conserve and restore the world’s largest freshwater resource using policy, education and local efforts, ensuring  healthy Great Lakes and clean water for generations of people and wildlife.

OPENLANDS www.openlands.org – protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife. Openlands’ vision for the region is a landscape that includes a vast network of land and water trail believing that protected open space is critical for the quality of life of our region.

On a slightly different theme – consider giving a gift subscription to SILENT SPORTS magazine. This monthly publication covers all self-propelled sports in the Midwest and is a great resource for places to paddle, bike, hike, ski, and for events you may not know about.  Subscriptions are $24.95 for twelve issues.  Thank you SILENT SPORTS for donating two annual subscriptions to our door prize raffle at our annual dinner.

Joel Patenaude, Editor,Silent Sports Magazine, 715/258-4354, P.O. Box 620583, Middleton, WI 53562


ILLINOIS PADDLING COUNCIL – www.illinoispaddling.org – brings you this list of Holiday Gift Giving Opportunities, hoping that you may also consider joining or renewing your membership in our organization. If you have renewed after July 1, 2015, your membership will extend through 2016, but of course, we will always welcome early renewals. THANK YOU.


Don’t forget the 5th Annual DesPlaines River cleanup! Sept 12, 9-1pm.

Don’t forget the 5th Annual DesPlaines River cleanup!  Sept 12, 9-1pm.


On Land in Lake County at Half Day Forest Preserve.

On Water in Lake County from RiverShire Park for experienced canoeists and kayakers with their own boat and gear.

On Land or Water in Cook County at Dam 1 Woods East;

Request More Information or to RSVP:

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Organizing a cleanup


Organizing a cleanup is easy!  All you need to do is grab some garbage bags, perhaps some cleanup tools, and your paddling friends, and pick up trash.  That’s all there is to it, so go forth and clean up our waters…Until you get to the spot you were going to drop the trash, and ‘Officer Friendly’ informs you that you can’t leave the tires there! So maybe it isn’t quite so easy.  Let’s start a dialog, on either on the IPC Web Site or on the Water TrailKeepers Facebook Page to discuss the logistics around organizing cleanups.


  • Setting the Cleanup Objective:  What do you want to accomplish?  Eliminate an illegal trash dump?  Pull Trash from the River?  Connect the community to a forgotten waterway?  What the goal will determine a lot of what will come next
  • Choosing Where and When.  As the organizer this is really your preference.  When are you available to do it.  Where do you want to do it?  However, you may find that some flexibility is in order.  Avoiding highly publicized dates like ‘earth day’, ‘it’s our river day’, ‘National Trails Day’, etc. may mean you get more volunteers because you won’t be competing with lots of other events.  Weather and on-water conditions may also impact the choice of when and where.
  • Fund Raising:  It always helps to have funds to supply cleanup tools/supplies, trash pickup, food for volunteers, etc.  In recent years, Water TrailKeepers has been fortunate to receive funding from REI Stewardship Grants, The ACA Club Fostered Stewardship Program,  the Illinois EPA, and other individual donors.  Funding is available, but it takes time and effort to obtain it.
  • Involving Local Authorities: If you can get the local authorities such as Forest Preserves, Conservation districts, park districts, etc. onboard, things go much more smoothly.  They may be able to help with disposal of trash, and provide other services.  They may even have volunteer programs to help you with recruiting volunteers and reaching out to the public.  Their responsiveness, or lack thereof may influence the decision on where and when.


  • Arranging for Trash Pickup:  If the local authorities are unable or unwilling to dispose of your trash, you will need to find alternatives.

Sometimes the local trash hauler will donate services to a community service project.  Sometimes they will offer discount rates.

Bridgestone has a program ‘tires 4ward’ to help dispose of trash-pickup-tires.


  • Recruiting Volunteers

Sources of volunteers:   Paddling Clubs, the community, church groups, youth groups, scouting….etc.

Involving the general public on-land walking the shores

Involving the general public on-water in boats

Thank, Feed, and Recognize volunteers

  • Partners and Sponsors:  Involving multiple organizations in the planning and execution of a cleanup increases the complexity, but can greatly increase effectiveness.
  • The media:.  The media can be a great ally publicizing the event. Media Outreach takes a lot of time, effort, and patience.
  • Event day logistics
  • Post cleanup follow up:  Get ready to do it again next year?

Reel Paddling Film Festival

The Chicago Whitewater Association will be hosting the the Reel Paddling Film Festival World Tour at Durty Nellies in Palatine, IL on June 18th at 7:00PM (doors open at 6:30). Of the films available on the tour, CWA has selected 2.5 hours of films featuring whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking, SUP, canoeing, paddle racing and river stewardship. 
CWA is pleased to have the support of Rocktown Adventures, Erehwon Mountain Outfitter,Great Lakes Kayak and The Yak Shack as sponsors. Each has donated great prizes that will be raffled off during the intermission of the event. Additionally, Sweet Water Brewing Company will be providing drink vouchers to the first 40 participants (over the age of 21).
Tickets can be purchased online in advance for $12 (adult), $10 (student):
Tickets will also be available at the door (if not sold out) for $15.
Rapid Media’s 10th annual Reel Paddling Film Festival showcases the world’s best paddling films to audiences in Canada, United States and around the world. The festival inspires more people to explore rivers, lakes and oceans, push physical and emotional extremes, embrace the lifestyle and appreciate the heritage of the wild places we paddle.The Reel Paddling Film Festival is a film contest awarding winning films in 10 categories. The winners and other shortlisted films are then toured to more than 100 cities around the world, screening for an audience of more than 30,000 outdoor adventure enthusiasts and their friends and families.


Report Dumping

By now everyone has probably seen the big California Oil Spill on the news. How about the two Illinois Oil Spills, one in Galina and one near Sidney in the Salt Fork of the Vermillion River? Read about them here:






While these are dramatic examples, it doesn’t take a train-wreck-sized spill to have an environmental impact. Even small events matter. So you are paddling your favorite body of water, and notice a chemical sheen. Besides being grossed out…what do you do? One paddler of the Fox River on Memorial Day weekend experienced just this. Jake, contacted the local authorities in Aurora who were extremely responsive. Eric, who has been involved with volunteer water quality monitoring projects, and also happens to be the City Engineer was able to trace the spill back to the source and clean it up!  The Illinois EPA was also notified to investigate the spill. Great Victory guys!


A few years back, also on the Fox, some paddlers discovered a fish-kill off. They contacted local authorities. Eventually the culprit was found, and justice served. Great Victory!


Last Month, Mike Taylor and Tom Eckels were paddling the Little Calumet River. We discovered a illegal disposal site of truck tires and automotive parts behind a trucking company, dumped in the river. A call was placed to the local authorities. It is yet to be seen as to what happens. Let’s hope for another great victory!

So you are paddling on your favorite waterway. You find a chemical spill or an illegal dump site. What do you do? First of all, do not come into direct contact with any potential contaminants. Let the professionals do their job. The safest thing to do is to report it. But to whom. A good place to start is your local village/town/city/county hall. The staff there could direct you to the local authorities who can take direct action. Additionally these types of incidents fall into the jurisdiction of the Illinois EPA. For a chemical spill or other emergency; For A non-emergency:

Another tool available is the Report a Water Trail Problem of the Water TrailKeepers. WTK volunteers are willing to assist as much as we can!

No responsiveness from the local government or Illinois EPA? Consider contacting your State and/or Federal Senator or Representative’s office. Putting a little political heat under the feet of those responsible is always an option.  Also find organizations such as the Illinois Water TrailKeepers, Prairie River Networks, American Rivers, River Alliance, Friends of groups, etc. etc. etc. to help address the issue. Many organizations have existing relationships with authorities, and can call on their relationships to help get things cleaned up!