Tag Archive | river

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

Old Savannah Ogeechee Canal

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A sample of a lock

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Savannah-Ogeechee Barge Canal is one of the prime relics in the history of southern canals. Beginning with the tidal lock at the Savannah River, the waterway continues through four lift locks as it traverses 16.5 miles before reaching another tidal lock at the Ogeechee River.

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Equipment needed to maintain the canal

The Savannah-Ogeechee Canal was constructed between 1826 and 1830 by African and Irish laborers who moved thousands of cubic yards of earth. A boon to Georgia’s economy, the canal moved cotton, rice, bricks, and natural fertilizer.

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Lock #5, or whats left of it, just before the Ogeechee River

A nearby historical marker reads:

THE 15TH CORPS AT THE SAVANNAH AND OGEECHEE CANAL

On Dec. 6 1864, the 15th Corps [US], Maj. Gen. P. J. Osterhaus, USA, the extreme right of Gen. Sherman’s army on its destructive March to the Sea, forced a crossing of Great Ogeechee River at Jenk’s Bridge (US 80 east of Blitchton) and drove the Confederate defenders toward Savannah. Corse’s division crossed and occupied Eden. Smith’s division remained on the west bank with the corps trains. With Hazen’s and Woods’ divisions, Osterhaus moved down the west bank, Hazen to take the bridge over Canoochee River east of Bryan Court House (Clyde), Woods to prepare crossings over the Ogeechee at Fort Argyle (1 mile W. across the river) and on the charred ruins of Dillon’s bridge, at the mouth of this canal.

On the 8th, Corse moved down the east bank to this point and found the bridge over the canal in flames. He rebuilt it, then camped here for the night. On the 9th, Smith arrived with the corps trains. Corse moved forward to the Darien road (US 17), defeated a small Confederate force entrenched astride both roads, and drove it toward Savannah. On the 10th, Corse moved north of Little Ogeechee River followed by Hazen who, having secured the bridge over the Canoochee, had crossed the Ogeechee at Dillon’s Bridge. Smith moved north along the canal, followed by Woods who had crossed the Ogeechee at Fort Argyle. That night, Corse, Woods and Smith were in line facing the strong Confederate works along Salt Creek, with Hazen in reserve at the Little Ogeechee.

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Ogeechee River

The lumber industry revived canal usage following a Civil War-era lull, but a yellow fever epidemic blamed on the canal caused a further decline. The canal closed in the early 1890s as the Central of Georgia Railroad served transportation needs. Beginning at the Savannah River, the canal comprises six locks and 16.5 miles, ending at the Ogeechee River.

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Oreo likes to be the leader. He often looks back at me, surely thinking this pink ape is ‘Givin it all she’s got”* when it comes to speed.

When it comes to size, this canal is not very large. Not with the size of canals built today.  I’d say it is about 12 feet wide here. The barges must have not been wide, however guessing they were just plentiful.

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Tree knees. What? Yup, tree knees. The little ant-hill like humps coming up from the water are called knees. These are produced by trees that grow in water filled areas. All tree roots need oxygen at varying levels. Water species compensate their water-logged roots with this special root growth that ‘comes up for air’ so to speak. And here you thought they were called knees because they are about that hieght and you bash your knees on them! HaHa!!

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True to it’s name, there was Holly on the trail!

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There was a small amount of damage from the recent hurricane that came through. The wooden path was busted-up a bit, however not impassible to a limber person.

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Edible Cladonia evansii: What’s not to lichen? Haha! Its common name is Deer Moss and deer love eating it. Its not exactly ready-to-eat for humans, it needs some preparation. It is very high in carbs tho!

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We walked from wetland forest to a sandy palm area. I’m not familiar with the geology here, however it was fascinating!

  • Star Trek – Scottie 😉 Didja get that Scifi?

© 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.

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Kayaking allowed us to get pretty close!

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

Kayak Ahoy!

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The Middle Fork River is Illinois’ first State Scenic River. It was designated in 1986 by Governor James R. Thompson. Soon after, in 1989 the Middle Fork was also designated as a National Scenic River by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan.

Hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day weekend!


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Fox River Kayaking 8-21-2015

We bought KAYAKS!!!

We’ve been putzing around renting kayaks and canoes for far too long. My husband did all the research and we settled on the Bass Pro Shop brand Ascend. He went with the fishing version and I went with the sports car version =-) Both are 10 feet long and about 50 pounds. A few things really make these ‘Yaks’ the bomb… The storage space is enormous, I can fit a full cooler in the back. The cupholders at the front keep your drink from spilling all over your legs (Who thought a cup holder between your legs was a good idea?). However, best of all is the adjustable, padded seats!!

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Cheers! Our maiden voyage is on the Fox River. We were a bit farther south than the last trip on the Fox.

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The starlings really enjoyed squawking in this large dead tree. I spied these flowers on the shore… It was a Geocache!

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Enallagma cyathigerum ~ Common blue damselfly

Damselflies and dragonflies spend the greater part of their lives as larvae, sometimes as much as three years. Adults live for around 12 days on average and in this short period they must breed. Mating can take up to 20 minutes and the females lay their eggs in the tissue of plants both above and below the water line and are capable of remaining submerged for some time. The male will stay guarding her at the point where she entered the water.

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Too bad we didn’t get to see a train.

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Nice and calm waters. No motor boats, too shallow. Only about 3′ feet mostly. There are some deeper spots.

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A Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla ) scurries around looking for crawling snacks.  Very cute.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Chain O’ Lakes State Park – Fox River Kayak Trip

We decided to camp a mere 14 miles from home last weekend. Funnier still is we’ve not came here to hike or kayak either. Sometimes the best places are right in your backyard!!

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The Chain O’ Lakes State Park, is located in northeast Illinois in both McHenry and Lake counties and became a state park in 1945 when the State of Illinois made an initial purchase of 840 acres. In the 1930s, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp became the Chain O’Lakes Conservation Area, and was incorporated into the state park in 1957.

The Chain O’Lakes is located in northeast Illinois and is made up of 15 lakes joined by the Fox River and man-made channels. The collection of lakes is 7,100 acres (29 km2) of water, 488 miles (785 km) of shoreline and 45 miles (72 km) of river. “The Chain is the busiest inland recreational waterway per acre in the United States…” states the Fox Waterway Agency.

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Fox River

The Chain O’Lakes were formed when the Wisconsin glacier melted. The land of Chain O’Lakes State Park is primarily freshwater bog over deep peat layers. No worries drowning here… just stand up!! The river bluff slopes softly to the moraines that rise about 200 feet. Chain O’Lakes has a mixture of oak and hickory near the waterway, then going inland; cherry, elm, birch, sumac and spruce, plus some scattered pine stands.

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If you zoom into this photo, you may be able to see the swallow type birds (maybe a purple martin?) that were catching fish and dragonflies.

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Time to relax, crack a beer…

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Sloooowly creeping up on the  American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea). I didn’t want to damage any of the two foot wide lily pads. I was using my hands to paddle up to it.

The area was originally inhabited by Algonquian, Miami, Mascouten and Potawatomi tribes, then during the 1880’s, Europeans started settling in. Later, in 1901, the train came to the area from Chicago, which opened up the area to tourism. Historically, Grass Lake was once almost entirely covered with American lotus each summer, which brought in boatloads of tourists.The area is also legendary for its hosting of 1920’s prohibition gangsters, including the infamous Al Capone, who owned a cottage on Bluff Lake near Antioch.

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There was a very large stand of them.

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Nymphaea odorata  ~ Fragrant Water Lily

I wish I had known they were smelly, I would have stuck my nose in it!!

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We weren’t sure what type of insect this was, possibly a robber fly?

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If you squint really hard there is a kildeer bird and a sand piper in there. Gesh, maybe I could use a real camera with a zoom lens…

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Two hundred acres of restored native prairie provide nesting habitat for grassland bird species. A check-list of the nearly 200 birds that have been identified in the park is available at the park office. Other wildlife that call the Chain home: white-tailed deer, rabbits, ground squirrels, chipmunks, mink, opossum, skunks, raccoons, gophers, foxes, badgers, beaver, coyotes and groundhogs.

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We finally got to a great little bar that had wonderful, refreshing margaritas!! AND a Clean potty =-)

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Chimney swifts build their mud nests under route 173.

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Pretty dragonfly.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl