Tag Archive | kayak

Kayaking Door County, Wisconsin

Last 4th of July, we went camping in Door County, Wisconsin for the second time. I can’t explain the magnetic pull this area has on me, just like Jens Jensen. I totally get why he chose to be here. It’s very strange, as I can’t see myself as a full-time resident here. Winters can keep you pretty isolated, along with down-right frigid temperatures… Not my idea of fun.

Although Wisconsin has a lower housing market than my Chicago suburbs area, Door County has it’s “Cape Cod of the Midwest” reputation and adds a higher percentage to that market percentage. Add on waterfront to the description and tack on 100% to the price.

I’m not in the high enough tax-bracket to achieve a two property household, so I’ll just dare to dream for now…

This post got lost in the drafts folder, as I was looking to add some video from my sport camera… Trying to load it onto YouTube as I write… Got that spinning wheel of death right now. My upload speed is probably at -2% right now. .. I’ll keep you hanging right now as to if this succeeds or not, by posting it at the end… If I can 😉

There are a total of three locations we kayaked in this post.

FIRST: Kangaroo Lake

It is a 1,156 acres (467.8166 hectares) lake that’s only 12 feet (3.7M) in the deep end. Kangaroo Lake received its name from its shape which resembles a Kangaroo with its head (North end), pouch or hands (mid-east side), and feet (south end). The best part about the lake is the fact it is shallow and big boats can’t be on it. The Lake Association has banned them to preserve the easily disturbed, silt bottom. This makes for a kayaker / canoers dream paddle location.

My hubby used to come here and fish when he was a wee lad. You can catch Panfish, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and Walleye. The water is very clear and it’s pretty easy to see the fish below. It ain’t so easy to catch one, though. 😉

There is even a small island in the center that I’m pretty sure is privately owned. There is a beautiful house with wonderful landscaping with boat houses, et all. We did see a young gentleman arrive at the dock from the mainland and waved to him. He tipped his hat back. Clearly, there is activity happening here, I just didn’t put a lot of time researching it. Anyone know???

Mama duck escorted her kiddos across the lake. I hope boaters pay attention to wildlife =-)

Early in the morning, the water is pretty calm.

Next we visited Mud Lake:

While driving around the area, we saw a pull-off area and felt the need to investigate. Turns out there was a launch into Reinboldt Creek, which takes you to Mud Lake. This is from the DNR website:

Mud Lake Wildlife Area is a 2,290-acre property located in northeastern Door County near Moonlight Bay. The property consists of a 155-acre shallow (maximum depth 5 feet) drainage lake surrounded by an extensive shrub and timber swamp. Immediately surrounding the open water is a narrow zone of shrubby northern sedge meadow dominated by sedges, willows, dogwoods and sweet gale. The wetlands and lake provide habitat for the federally-endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana) among many other wildlife and plant species. The open zone grades into second-growth wet-mesic forest of white cedar, white spruce, balsam fir and black ash. This is an example of boreal forest habitat which a rare community type to be found in Wisconsin. As a result records of boreal forest species such as Common Goldeneye have been documented to nest on the property which is rare in Wisconsin.

I wish I could tell you that the two below videos were from my sports camera. Nope. Still working out the kinks. The hard part is that the screen will ‘time-out’ and there’s no light or anything that lets you know it’s recording. I think ti’s not recording, hit the button again and then turn it off. Gaaaa! I’m getting better and I do have some longer ones that I’ve uploaded to YouTube. I’ll connect to those when I’ve edited out all the swear words 😉

I wonder why the rocks are so red. Very cool, tho!!

Now we’re at Gills Rock.

This boat launch had plenty of parking and an easy in/out for small boats. There’s a Fleetwing shipwreck to go check out. The water is clear enough to see the cargo, 25 feet below.

The area was originally full of alder (Alnus), willow (Salix) and cedar (Juniperus) which has given way to forests dominated by spruce (Picea) and, then later, pine (Pinus). Mixed forests of eastern hemlock (Tsuga) and hardwoods such as beech (Fagus) and elm (Ulmus) became standard by about 7,500 years ago and have persisted. I saw many birch (Betula) and Eastern red cedar (Juniperus), like the ones in this photo.

There are many animals that rely on the cliffs for shelter and food. The gulls in the photos below soared just above the water looking for fish.

We are starting to get a bit more elaborate with our rock stacks. We’ve been adding levers to the mix. Clearly, mine is the one with the flowers 😉

A recent rock slide.

It couldn’t have been a more beautiful day.

The seagulls were swooping up to see if we were offering treats.

Hieroglyphs of people canoeing.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

That’s Not a Turtle!! Nerodia sipedon

So here I am, minding my own business as I paddle around a lake, when suddenly I see a swimming turtle! A cute, little tur…rrrrt.. Huh, that is a hellava long turtle. No. Effing. Way. It’s a SNAAAKE! 😯 I backed off so we didn’t have a sequel of Snakes on a Plane, with Snakes on a Kayak.

I wasn’t even in the Everglades or south of the equator, I was here in Central Illinois. I had no idea there were water snakes in the Midwest. With that being said, my best guess at his identity is a Nerodia sipedon or a Common Water Snake.

After watching this guy swim across the lake and to the grassy edge, I was mesmerized. How does he swim? He stopped many times, wondering what I was going to do. How did he stay afloat while stopped? I was fascinated. Fascinated enough that I let myself get within about 15 feet of him. I was clearly not thinking. I did not know the identity of this snake until I researched it (from the safety of my living room!) It could have possibly been a poisonous Water Moccasin! However, I only knew of one type of poisonous snake here in Illinois, the Timber Rattlesnake and they are pretty rare, nor are they swimmers.

I made sure not to corner him and figured as long as he had an escape route, he wouldn’t come at me. Glad he agreed with me!

This snake likes to bask in the daylight hours on rocks, vines and trees, where it freaks out passing kayakers… Although this species may occasionally forage during the day, they are usually more active at night. Activity levels of this species relates to the temperature of water and ambient temperature. They mate in spring, then in late summer, Mama Snake gives birth to 20-50 live young in late July or August. Mothers do not care for their young; as soon as they are born, it’s survival of the fittest.

Some quick Water Snake facts:

  • The water snake averages 22 to 36 inches in length.
  • Water snakes have many predators including birds, opossums, foxes, raccoons, turtles, other snakes and people.
  • Although they are solitary, aside from mating season, this snake will hibernate in dens with other snakes.
  • They are not poisonous, however if picked-up, they will bite, poop and to top it all off, shoot a pungent musk at you. Blech! You can be sure I’ll never find this out first hand!

After doing my research, I found many sites that explain the difference between the poisonous snakes from the innocent, Water Snake.



© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl


Kayaking Savannah

We really wanted to get out and kayak while we were down in Savannah. The weather wasn’t so bad (for a Midwesterner), however the day we picked turned out to be very foggy. We were a bit uneducated dealing with tide information. Of course we knew what it was, just to what degree did the water change. Considering some of the piers we saw were 100’s of feet long, we figured we wanted to go during high tide, and ride low tide back out for less paddling.
We chose to launch from the Rodney J Hall Boat Ramp, as it was nearby, kayak friendly and free.


MINE! MINE! MINE! Fish heads for the gulls. Ass fisherperson could have thrown them off the ramp, tho.


Note the water is high on the poles. There’s a bird perched on every pole!

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I love how birds sit on the poles.


This guy had a kayak that he peddled instead of paddled! Very cool!!


Not sure what type of birds these are.

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The pelicans followed this guy like begging dogs! Too cute.


I think these are oysters on the shores.



The tide had gone out about 5 feet by the time we came back to the boat ramp.


The water had gone down so much, we couldn’t get near the poles the birds were on at the beginning of the post.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

American White Pelican – Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

These guys were spotted during our trip to Trempealeau National Wildlife Preserve, just outside the town of Trempealaeu, Wisconsin, on the Mississippi River. This preserve was established in 1936, and has grown to its current size of 6,446 acres. These pools are spring fed and overflow into the Mississippi. We saw so many birds we’ve never seen before. Bald eagles, cormorants, various ducks I couldn’t identify along with many songbirds. This area is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System whose mission is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.


Kayaking allowed us to get pretty close!


The American White Pelican and Grey Pelican (P. occidentalis), are the only two species of pelican in North America. These well known birds are all white except for its black-edged wings that are visible in flight. They have long necks, a large orange bill with an expandable pouch and short orange legs with big webbed feet. These birds are one of the world’s largest birds, weighing in as much as 30 lbs (14 kg) and wingspans of 9 feet (3 M).

  • Unlike Brown Pelicans, who dive for their food, American White Pelicans swim and scoop their bills into the water for theirs. Birds often cooperate when feeding. They coordinate their swimming to force schooling fish into the shallows, where the pelicans can easily scoop up the corralled fish.
  • American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants are often found nesting together. They sometimes hunt together (though they mainly seek out different fish and at different depths).
  • Pelicans are excellent food thieves. They have been seen stealing from other pelicans trying to swallow a large fish. They also try to steal prey from Cormorants that are bringing fish to the surface.
  • Pelican chicks can crawl by 1 – 2 weeks of age. By 3 weeks they can walk with their body off the ground and can swim as soon as they can get to the water, and by the age of 9 to 10 weeks, they can fly.
  • They forage almost exclusively by day on their wintering grounds, however during breeding season, they commonly forage during the night. Even though it’s hard to see, nighttime foraging tends to result in larger fish being caught.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Kayaking Green Bay in Lake Michigan

We had a wonderful time in Door County, Wisconsin. We were able to explore Lake Michigan via our kayaks in the tranquil Green Bay. We disembarked from Gills Rock and paddled south.

To quote myself, from my Door County post:

“The geology of this area is pretty unique. In a seriously, small nutshell: About 425 million years ago, there was a shallow sea in the Lake Michigan area. After the sea dried up and deposited all the Limestone, it was covered in a glacier. All the pressure & chemical reactions turned it in to dolomite. Many years of erosion made all the beautiful bluffs we see here today.”

Goodness! I just summed-up 425 million years in 5 sentences =-O I don’t believe I shared the utter beauty of the place with you. Here’s just a bit more info on the area.

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The circular area in red is called the Niagara Escarpment, and stands taller than the surrounding areas. Green Bay and neighboring Door County run along the escarpment which extends in a wide arc from eastern Wisconsin through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, and through the Niagara Falls. I’ve not been to Niagara Falls, however now I know what to look forward to when I do visit.

While hiking, you get to enjoy the height of the cliffs looking out over the lake. However, while kayaking, you get to enjoy the cliffs looking up FROM the lake!

The trees have obviously been hanging onto the cliffs for years. It was so cool to look up into a tree’s roots.

The area was originally full of alder (Alnus), willow (Salix) and cedar (Juniperus) which has given way to forests dominated by spruce (Picea) and, then later, pine (Pinus). Mixed forests of eastern hemlock (Tsuga) and hardwoods such as beech (Fagus) and elm (Ulmus) became standard by about 7,500 years ago and have persisted. I saw many birch (Betula) and Eastern red cedar (Juniperus), like the ones in this photo.

There are many animals that rely on the cliffs for shelter and food. The gulls in the photos below soared just above the water looking for fish.

Although we did not see any, there are many bats that are indigenous to the area; little brown myotis, the northern myotis, the big brown bat, and the tri-colored bat. All four of these species are currently listed in Wisconsin as threatened. In addition, the forests above the escarpment provide summer homes for the migrating bat species, including the silver-haired, eastern red, and hoary.


Clean rocks among the dirty. It was only about 4′ (1.5M) deep here.

We were told by a bartender that there were Native American paintings on the cliffs near Gill’s Rock. We paddled south for about a mile, all the while staring at the walls. Finally! I don’t know what they used to paint the walls, however I’m really shocked me that it was still able to be seen. Doubly shocked that no one has desecrated it =-)

I did try to do some research into what tribe may have painted it, to no avail. The Potawatomi Indians are still around, however there were many other tribes in the area. I wasn’t even able to find these same paintings posted on-line. That’s strange. I can’t imagine I’m the first one to post these things. Either way, it was really cool to have seen them and experience them in a kayak, looking quite like them.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.* HeeHee!!

Washington Island

Rock slides are common.

There’s not really a beach where we were paddling. So much of the limestone has eroded and fallen into the lake. Although the lake works its magic quickly, the rocks were smooth and not too rough on the tootsi’s.

It is 25′ (8M) deep here. Scuba divers like to view the shipwrecks in this area. The small passage between the islands and Lake Michigan is called ‘Death’s Door’. Ironically, not because of all the shipwrecks (and there are many), but because of ancient Potawatomi legend. To learn more, click here!

Vessel Name: Fleetwing (1867)
National Register: Listed
Registry #:9883
Casualty: 10/26/1888, stranded
Vessel Type: Schooner
Built: 1867, Henry B. Burger, Manitowoc, WI
Owners: Andrew McGraw John Spry
Home Port: Chicago, IL
Cargo: Lumber (that is what you’re seeing in the above pix)


The photo of the tree was taken by me looking straight up the cliff.

I felt the water was a bit too chilly to swim in, although many folks were enjoying it.

The water was absolutely beautiful and clear.

I would highly recommend coming here for a paddle.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

*Gilligan’s Island

Middle Fork River Kayaking


We came here to camp for the Memorial Day Weekend and take advantage of all the waterways to paddle around in. We used Kickapoo Landing to shuttle us on Saturday for a 13 mile float down and on Sunday for the 8 hour.

The Middle Fork of the Vermilion River is a tributary of the Vermilion River, which flows to the Wabash River in Illinois. The Middle Fork rises in Ford County and flows southeast to join the Vermilion near the town of Danville. In its entirety, the Middle Fork is about 77 miles (124 km) long.

Middle Fork River is Illinois’ first State Scenic River, designated in 1986 by Governor James R. Thompson. In 1989, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan nominated it as a National Scenic River. The Middle Fork is the first river in Illinois to be included in the National Wild Scenic Rivers System. The State Law (Public Act 84-1257) and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act give permanent protection to a 17-mile segment of the river in Vermilion County.

The Middle Fork River has eroded the countryside through glacial deposits, which created sheer valley slopes and tall bluffs. This resulted in sandy cliffs on the riverbanks, which attracts swallows to nest in the safety of the vertical landscape. During a flood, the muscle of the river slices new channels, moves boulders and uproots trees.

There are five canoe access points along the 17 miles of the Middle Fork River. There are additional canoe access areas further upstream also. You can take a short paddle of a few hours, or make a weekend of it and camp overnight in the campgrounds.

The Middle Fork River Valley supports a great diversity of plants and animals including 57 types of fish, 45 different mammals, and 190 kinds of birds. Of this diverse wildlife, there are 24 species officially identified as State threatened or endangered species. Other special qualities of the Middle Fork River valley include unusual geologic formations, various historic sites, and over 8,400 acres of public parks.

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Turkey vultures are almost always overhead looking for squished snacks. They enjoy hanging out in dead trees. A group is called a ‘venue’ or a ‘kettle’, as they resemble bubbles rising in a kettle while riding the thermals in the sky.


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Many communities of swallows were in the bluff sides. They were swooping around us to get all the bugs that were flying around, although gratefully, not mosquitoes! I wonder if all the cottonwood seeds posed any difficulty in them hunting? BTW, a group of swallows is a ‘flight’.





We didn’t see anyone for a while and decided to dock. There were many locations similar to this to dock. I swear it was only seconds after I pulled out our lunch when a large group of loud folks docked right next to us. Gesh, no peace… We left for a quieter nook.

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Fat fingers were a common occurrence while kayak without a waterproof cover on my phone. I wanted to be sure I had a good hold of it and sadly, covered the lens at times. Oppsy!!

However, fast action on my part did save me from loosing my camerone. I did capsize on a rock the first day… It felt like it happened in sllloooow mooootion. First, please don’t be alarmed, 95% of the river is only two feet (.6M) deep. There is no chance of drowning, just stand up! You can loose your equipment tho, my hubby had to grab my runaway paddle.

What happened was I hit a large rock which turned me 90º, I leaned, the water came in and filled it sideways. I stood up and held the water filled kayak  against the rock until my hubby could pull it to shore with me. No biggie, remove plug and drain. Call it a mulligan and paddle on.


That’s me!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Kickapoo State Park ~ Campground

imageWe came to this area for the Memorial Day weekend. It was only about a 3 1/2 hour ride south for us… Granted, just getting around the “shitty” (city = Chicago) takes an hour in itself. We were lucky that the Kickapoo State Park is even open with our state is such debt. Many state campgrounds have closed because of the lack of funds to man them.  Sadly, Kickapoo is on this list. I’m glad we got here before the October 1st closing. This one did have a “camp host” opposed to a ranger, which is a family that is allowed to camp at the campground for free in exchange for working at the entrance and taking care of all the daily needs of the campers. Some camp hosts are awesome, some suck. The set here (5/2016) at Kickapoo sucked.

As many may be reading this for the campground information, allow me to elaborate:

Kickapoo State Recreation Area has two major campgrounds for tent and trailer camping, with 184 sites. All of the sites are very large, even the rustic camping. Our electric (30 amp) site cost $25 a night. About half the sites have electrical hookups, two shower buildings and a sanitary dump station is available. Sadly, because of lack of funds, the dump was bubbling full when we pulled away from the line of nine campers behind us waiting to dump. A limited number of walk-in sites are available for primitive campers. The shower buildings are closed by November 1 and reopen May 1. Although I did not use the shower house, it looked clean.

Kickapoo owes its crystal clear ponds and luxuriantly forested ridges and hillsides to the regenerative powers of nature.  During the past 50 years, trees and vegetation have reclaimed the former mined land. The state’s 1939 purchase of 1,290 acres of mined lands from United Electric Coal Co. was largely underwritten with contributions collected from Danville area residents.

With twenty-two lakes and access to the Middle Fork River, Kickapoo is known for the opportunities it provides for water-based outdoor activities. Anglers find excellent fishing for large mouth and small mouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, crappie and redear sunfish. Especially popular are the annual fall and spring stockings of rainbow trout, which provide an unusual opportunity for central Illinois anglers to fish for catchable size trout.
There are 12 launching ramps on nine of Kickapoo’s lakes. Boat and canoe rentals are available for Clear Pond. Only electric motors are allowed on the park’s lakes. For people wanting to canoe the scenic Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, a canoe rental and shuttle service is available from Kickapoo Landing.

Hiking the trails within our campground was a treat. The once stark surface mined banks are now covered with a forest of cottonwood, haw, ash and wild cherry. Bald cypresses, introduced along the pond edges, add to the variety in the canopy. A fav of mine, the sycamore, was well represented in the campground, along with having 4 on our site. The trails were single file paths that canvassed the landscape both high and low. We crossed land bridges, looked out over scenic bluffs and let the boys run into the ponds. Oreo was a bit surprised at the fast descending sides of the pond. Two dog steps in was over two feet deep, which is about snoot level for him. He quickly retreated.  The deep water ponds were abound with aquatic insects, plants, crustaceans, amphibians and a variety of fish.  Our stay corresponded with the cottonwoods blooming and it looked like it was snowing.

I’m not sure if this Google Maps image helps show all the ponds that were available for us to paddle on. Our campsite was #95 and is almost in the center of the photo, right on the bank of Long Pond. The pond was a good 50 feet down a steep embankment. See the photos below for perspective.

long pond



Our campsite, #95, Long Pond is directly forward in this photo. A pretty good site, aside from the path going though the back of it. Although the site was very large, folks would walk through very close to our trailer and well within the 20′ long leads my dogs had on. My dogs are friendly, though energetic to meet people. Not all folks are dog people, but then WHY, for all that is holy, would you walk within a dog’s radius than walk 10′ father away and yell at me for having my dog jump on you???!?! People have no sense.


Long Pond is to the left. The path in the previous photo is to the right.

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This area was inhabited by the Kickapoo tribe. They later were moved to Kansas.
Kickapoo (Kiikaapoa or Kiikaapoi) which means “Stands here and there,” and “wanderer” which describes their nomadic ways.
Twenty-two deep water ponds, ranging in size from 0.2 of an acre to 57 acres, provide a total of 221 acres of water for boaters, canoeists, scuba divers and anglers.

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Long Pond from just a bit down the road from our campsite and one of the many beautiful Bald cypress trees along the pond.


Here is the location of our camper viewed from the Long Pond. You could barely see it. The arrow is pointing to the front, top corner of the trailer. It does blend into the scenery being brown. I think all the scrub growing on the bluff doesn’t allow for perspective of just how high and steep it was.


Yeah, you go first and clear out all the cobwebs.


There’s no current in the ponds, which made it easier to paddle all around.

Don’t dock here!! Blooming poison ivy is on guard here!

All in all, we really enjoyed our stay here, however I can’t not mention the amount of rude campers we experienced here. We’ve both been camping a loooong time and we’ve never seen this many together, I swear it was a “Bad Camper” convention! From unleashed dogs, doggie land mines, 24/7 barking, large fires, loud music, loud drunk folks (although it’s supposed to be a dry campground), speeding, brutalizing trees, public urination, cars parked willy-nilly, excessive lighting, walking thru our site and to ice the cake, someone setting up a tent on OUR campsite! We were told that it was such a big site, we should be able to share…. Host actually agreed with them and rather than get kicked out, we dropped subject. How F-ing rude IMO.

We’d come back if by some miracle they are open in the future. We have a better site scoped out for our next visit. One where there’s no paths going thru it!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl