630 Posts
26 what is paddleboarding

So what is paddleboarding?  Basically you stand up on a surfboard, then paddle around using a long oar.  It is a combination of surfing and canoeing. Once you are able to keep a balance and get the hang of it, it allows you to enjoy being out on the water without ever getting wet.  While stand-up paddleboarding is afairly easy sport to grasp, it is always a good idea to learn the basic and proper techniques right from the start.

You may have seen some paddleboarders riding the lake.  There seems to be an upsurge in interest in paddle boarding on Lake Michigan.  While Lake Michigan may not be the first location that comes to mind when you think of a stand up paddle spot, the lake is a surprisingly ideal location to enjoy this sport. During the summer months, gentle winds and warmer water combine for a smooth, fresh water paddling experience.  

The Great Lakes Board Company is on North Avenue Beach and they rent paddlebaords for $25 an hour.  Whether you want to leisurely glide across the water or get a great workout racing across the beach, stand-up paddle boarding is for everyone.  Give it a stroke! 

Enjoy summer,

Mary Cashman

27 canoe the cache river

Cool off this summer at the Cache River State Natural Area in the southern tip of Illinois.  Every summer, I spent a pleasant afternoon on the Lower Cache River. There’s an access point within the natural area where I put my canoe in the water. A large dock and a concrete ramp make getting a boat in the water simple and convenient. A well-marked canoe path, the Lower Cache River Trail, threads along the northern edge of the wetlands. My canoe is in the water, and it’s time for me to get on the water.

    Pushing the duckweed aside reveals a large turtle where I have to put my foot. Moving him gently with my paddle, I step into the cool water, get onto my canoe and push away from the ramp. A fantastic vista greets my eyes. The bright emerald green duckweed covers much of the surface of the water and ancient, stately cypress trees rise from randomly scattered patches of button bush. Many old, snarled trunks of trees, glorious at one time, grace the landscape. Centuries of time and weather have shaped them into incredible, surreal, sculptures.

     Duckweed, though it looks slimy, is actually a floating mass comprised of small leafy plants. It is of tremendous value to the health of the wetlands. It keeps the water cool and provides a habitat for many species of wildlife. 

    It’s a beautiful day with a brilliant blue sky and white fluffy clouds. A mild breeze blows out of the south, making gentle ripples on the water. Tree Swallows twitter and dive for flying bugs. Prothonotary Warblers peek shyly at me from their perches in the cypress trees.  A loud noise shatters the quiet and

Blue Heron

a very disturbed Great Blue Heron flies in and out of sight among the trees. Gliding along, looking at the scenery, I see a pencil sized object push slowly upward through the duckweed. It gently drops back into the water when approached. It is the nose of a snapping turtle getting a breath of air. Large carp slap my boat as it cuts a wake through the swamp.

    Rounding a bend in the one of the channels, I hear the quiet murmur of voices. I move in their direction and discover a pair of fishermen in a Jon boat. They’re using a trolling motor to quietly work around the snags. After talking for a little while, they show me a pair of very nice bass they’ve caught. On one of my future trips, I just might bring a fishing rod.

    The canoe trail eventually comes to a huge, impressive, gnarled, bald cypress tree. It is the state champion.  This tree is 73 feet tall, has a trunk circumference of 34 feet 3 inches measured at 4.5 feet above the river bottom and boasts a crown spread of 35 feet. It is a massive sentinel that has been here for more than 1,000 years.

State Champion Bald Cypress

    The cypress trees are a mix of live and dead wood. Green branches, bearing the round green cypress cones, intermingle with oddly bent snags. They often have a crown of branches at what looks like the maximum water level. This–combined with buttonbush, duckweed, and submerged logs that look like alligators waiting in ambush–give this place an otherworldly feeling.

    Paddling back to the boat access, I hear the occasional quiet sploosh. Turtles basking on logs gently slide into the water as I near them. I am at the boat ramp now and it’s time for me to get out of the water and head home. It is actually hard to leave. This is a wonderful place to be.

    Everyone will find something of interest in southern Illinois’ wetlands. The Barkhausen-Cache River Wetlands Center in Cypress offers a comfortable meeting and stopping place with multimedia presentations, a fascinating museum and programs of all sorts that help acquaint people with the wetlands. From Vienna, Ill., go west five miles on state Route 146 from the intersection of Route 146 & U.S. Highway 45. Turn left (south) on state Route 37 and drive nine miles to the Wetlands Center entrance. Follow the signs.

     When you go:     For more information, contact the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau at 800-248-4373    While there’s no overnight camping in the natural area, a variety of lodging and restaurant options can be found in this part of southern Illinois. The area also is noted for a wine trail; you might consider seeing the Cache River Basin Winery and getting a bite to eat at the restaurant on site.

    Before heading out on the canoe trail, don’t forget to pack helpful equipment such as a GPS or map, compass, dry bags for gear, water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, insect repellent, a good personal floatation device and a cell phone.

Enjoy Southern Illinois!


28 bicycle illinois

Bicycle Group Cycling Across Illinois Will Stop in Champaign July 13th Champaign, IL – On Wednesday July 13, about twenty tired bicyclists will stop for the night in Champaign on the fourth stop of “Bicycle Illinois,” a 500-mile, six-day bicycle tour that calls on riders to cycle the entire length of Illinois from Cairo to Chicago.By the time the cyclists begin arriving at the new University of Illinois Activities and Recreation Center in the early afternoon, each one will have already completed about 325 miles of their total journey, having ridden at least 93 miles from Effingham that day, stopping along the way in Neoga, Mattoon, Arcola, and Pesotum.  The riders will spend the night either indoors on the gym floor or outdoors in tents and depart the next morning for the ride to Kankakee, stopping along the way in Rantoul, Loda, Onarga, and Ashkum.The next day, every cyclist will have to test their endurance by completing a mandatory 100 mile ride.  Known as a “century ride”, this single-day challenge is the cycling equivalent of running a marathon. While many of the cyclists will be completing a century ride for the first time and will undoubtedly be relieved once they’ve successfully arrived in Kankakee, a few of the stronger cyclists will have also completed a century ride every day of the tour.  These extreme riders will be 

Biking Illinois

 trying to earn membership to Bicycle Illinois’ exclusive “700 Club” by cycling at least 100 miles seven days in a row, including the Tri-State Tour, a one day ride from Hammond, IN to Kenosha, WI that immediately follows Bicycle Illinois.Bicycle Illinois is not a race however and there is a strict “no one left behind” policy so each cyclist can travel at his or her own pace and not need to worry about being left behind. The ride is also fully supported and every necessity is prearranged and included in the price of the trip such as nightly lodging arrangements, meals, baggage transportation, the route, and vehicle support on the road.  Other services, such as massages and hotel rooms, are also available for an additional cost.While the tour’s participants come from a broad background, they quickly develop a common bond through their love of cycling.  Ability levels range from recreational riders who have never attempted an extended cycling trip to competitive athletes who have completed several triathlons and multi-day bicycle tours. Riders’ ages range from teenagers to senior citizens and women make up about a third of the riders.  While about half of the participants live in the Chicago area and another 25% are from other parts of Illinois and surrounding states, the remaining 25% have travelled across the country to participate.  Tour director Rob Layton’s goal is for Bicycle Illinois to become the largest annual cross-state bicycle tour in the country and a destination for cyclists from around the world.This is the eighth consecutive year for the ride, and participation in each year’s event continues to grow.  In fact interest in next year’s tour, to be held from July 8-15, 2012 is already building. The Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau continues to support this event by providing community resources for the riders while they are in Champaign County. For more information contact Bicycle Illinois at (877) TOUR-ILL (868-7455) or visit www.bicycleillinois.com.Organization founder and tour director Rob Layton is a native Chicagoan.  He is an accomplished bike rider, having cycled across the entire country and an experienced trip leader with active membership in the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association.

29 jewels in the crown of shawnee

Garden of the Gods and Rim Rock/Pounds Hollow Recreational area are two must see locations on the eastern side of the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois. Both are located just off Karbers Ridge blacktop 30 minutes from Harrisburg.  Garden of the Gods consists of spectacular overlooks and views of unusual rock formations. One formation, known as Camel Rock, and will be featured in the America the Beautiful Quarter Program representing Illinois in 2016.  Garden of the Gods has been listed in “USA Today” as one of “Ten Great Places to Get Nature on Film”.  There are two main trail systems.  The “Observation Trail” is a .25 mile stone path featuring some of the most well known formations.  The view of the 3300 acres of beautiful old growth forest from this trail is breathtaking.  Sunsets are especially beautiful.  This is an interpretive trail that features interesting history about the geology of this area.  The Wilderness area is over 320 million years old.  The sediment rock in this area is over 4 miles deep and the fractured bedrock has created some interesting rock formations that represent various objects.  

There are other trails which interconnect for plenty of hiking. For those people who want even more extensive hiking River to River Trail enters the east end of the park from High Knob and proceeds south below the rock formations before bearing west again.  River to River Trail is a trail system which stretches across Illinois from the Ohio River to the Mississippi.

Rim Rock

While not as well known as Garden of the Gods, Rim Rock/Pounds Hollow Recreational area is just as awe inspiring in its own way and consists of a wonderfully scenic trail of exceptional beauty and historic values.  To early settlers this unique formation was known as “the Pounds” an old English term meaning “enclosure”.  The trail leads past remnants of a stone wall built by prehistoric Native Americans, an observation platform and steps descending through huge rock formations, narrow rock passageways via  stone steps to the floor below.  Ox Lot Cave, at the bottom, is a massive rock overhang where 19th century loggers kept their oxen and horses.  At the back of the overhang is a natural spring which never goes dry.  Continue hiking to the beautiful 28 acre forest lake known as Pounds Hollow Lake, or through massive sandstone canyons back to the top of the escarpment. 

This area is known for its spectacular show of spring woodland flowers along both its upper and lower trails.  The upper trail is paved and less strenuous for hikers.  The lower trail has a dirt surface and leads along the base of the bluffs before looping back to the parking lot.

Enjoy Southern Illinois!


30 vote for cahokia

Help Preserve our Past - Vote Today! Cahokia Mounds - Collinsville, IL

Cahokia Mounds State Historic and World Heritage Site is located in the River Bottom of the Mississippi River in Collinsville, Illinois.  Located centrally to St Louis, in the Metro East, Cahokia Mounds offers a local getaway to explore the way of life before Columbusand other Europeans arrived in America.  Cahokia Mounds has entered the This Place Matters Community Challenge sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The Community Challenge offers historic sites the opportunity to win a cash prize of up to $25,000 to help protect their site. 

Excavation at Cahokia Mounds

Why does Cahokia Mounds Matter?  Cahokia Mounds was the center of the elaborate Mississippian culture that spanned from as far south as Florida, to as far north as Wisconsin.  Because of this cultural significance UNESCO has designated Cahokia Mounds one of the 21 World Heritage Sites in the United States.  This Place Matters because Cahokia Mounds preserves the remains of a complex culture, including residential and religious centers.  1,600 acres of the original city of Cahokiafall outside of Cahokia Mounds’ state property lines.  These 1,600 acres of unprotected land are under constant threat from modern destructive forces.  If this land goes unprotected, new archaeological information may be lost.  If Cahokia Mounds wins the Community Challenge, the prize money would go to acquiring a portion of these 1,600 acres. Cahokia Mounds is currently 10th place in the Community Challenge standings and we need your help.  To vote, please visit http://www.preservationnation.org/communitychallenge.  The process takes about two minutes.  An email address is needed, as all voters must be registered.  There is an option to opt out of future contact from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  There is also a limit of one vote per email address, however if you have multiple email addresses, you may register those too.  Any funds won will be used to acquire unprotected portions of the site.  As of June 15, we are in 10th place, but we must be in the top three to win.  Please help us spread the word.