The Upper Iowa river spans over 150 miles across northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota. It begins in Mower County MN, and flows through the driftless area, before feeding into the Mississippi. I attempted a 126 mile stretch of this, moving from Lime Springs to Lansing IA. Due to low water conditions, I only made it halfway, opting to end at the 60 mile marker in Decorah.
TLDR: Dams are dangerous, don't boat over them.
Some low head dams are tempting to go over. They seem small, fast, and navigable. They aren't worth the risk. Pictured is the Fox River's Carpentersville dam. There are 3 components to this specific dam that present serious hazards to a kayak.
1. The edge. Often times this is a bulge of rock that creates the rounded effect. In higher water, this is actually less dangerous. In lower water, a boat will often scrape this edge. If a boat doesn't hit it straight on, it can cause a quick flip before the boater hits the rest of the dam
2. The ripple. This is a shallower section going down the side of the dam. Because of the smaller slope, it looks navigable. Often times it's very shallow, but very fast moving. This means that if a boat hits it going anything from perfectly straight, it's an easy side flip. There is a powerful sweeping current, constantly forcing a boat and paddler forward, no matter how shallow it is.
3. The Hydraulic. Hydraulics are what drown people. It's a circular effect in the water where the top part of the river has a reverse current which pulls a boat back towards the dam. It's a strong current that's very difficult to fight.
Basically, if trying to run the dam, you have to hit it going 100% straight. If you don't flip hitting the edge or getting caught in the ripple, you may be able to paddle hard to pass through the hydraulic.But that's a big if. Paddling over a dam is less about skill and strength, and more about luck. It's just not worth it.
Make no mistake, there have been plenty of needless drownings on the Fox: https://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140421/news/140429807/
Here's a video of a similar dam trapping someone with a wish for a Darwin award:
The killer part of every dam is the Hydraulic. Water will shoot straight down after going over the edge. It cycles back up in the boil, but then there is backwash that will pull objects back towards the edge. It is there that they get sucked back down again.
On 8/1/20, I went down the DuPage River rapids section in a canoe with two family members. The river was low, measuring to 2.4 ft at the Shorewood gauge. We started at Shorewood, and went to Channahon State Park: 10 miles.
Here is video from that section.
On the fourth of July, I did a fast paced paddle through the Fox River Dells area. I started in Yorkville, and pushed hard to get to Ayer's Landing around 1pm
Part 1 is around Blake's landing and the Fox River Resort, as you just start to come into the dells area.
Part 2 passes some farm fields and is a break in the cliffs
Part 3 is just past the big Island, as the river starts cutting south. There's a long line of cliff.
This is my favorite section of river in the Chicagoland area. It's very scenic and is a special part of the Fox River in Illinois.
Over Father's Day weekend, my dad and I completed a 28 mile run down the fox river. As the same with other trips, we started in Yorkville, camped around Sheridan, and ended in Wedron. The weather held up for the weekend, and it was a nice paddle. I'm going to chart out where we started, ended, and camped.
This weekend, I went on a kayak trip down the full length of the DuPage river. I started at Weigand Park in Naperville, and ended at Channahon state park in Shorewood. 28 Miles. Along the way, I passed through the rapids south of Hammel Woods. The gauge at Hammel was reading at about 3ft at the time, average.
I took two videos from my time on the river in the rapids area. Enjoy!
Over Easter weekend, I went on a solo kayak camping trip down the Fox River in Illinois. I took a 28 mile trip from Yorkville to Wedron. 0 portages and lots of scenic camping. I did 18 miles of paddling day 1, and 10 on day 2. Overall, I paddled for about 8 hours.
I put in at Yorkville, just past the dam. There is a boat launch west of IL-47. I had my wife pick me up at C&M canoe rental. I found a campsite at an island nearby the Sheridan juvenile center.
I got some great videos from the dells area. Enjoy!
This past weekend, I went to the Wisconsin Dells. There's a solid 42 mile trip from Castle Rock Dam to Portage WI. There is just one portage, a long one in the middle in downtown WI dells. The plan is to paddle 10-14 miles on day one, and find camping somewhere in the islands. Day 2 takes you through a lake, portage, and then back into the lower dells area. Day 3 is all river, taking you out to the end.
I did this trip with group of 5 others. 3 had never kayak camped before. 2 had gone on a few trips, to say the least. In mid October, highs were in the upper 50s, and lows in the low 40s. Not too cold, and not a lot of bugs.
Day 1 was windy. We made it about 12 miles. We started around noon with a car swap. We left all boats and gear at start, drove to end, then hired a taxi to take us back to the start. Little back and forth, but saved us travel at the end.
The wind was constantly in our face all day, making it a bit of a struggle. We hit the 7 mile bridge around 3:30, a bit behind pace. Fortunately from there, the current picked up and things got moving. We passed through the canyon around the 10 mile marker and had no issues despite choppy wind.
Day 2 was a mixed bag. The water was calm in the morning, leading to a smooth paddle through the open lake area and then through the narrows and into the dells. We took our time going through the scenic dells, so hit the portage right at noon. We'd get back into the water around 2pm, after lunch and portage.
The portage takes forever, as you go uphill, through a big parking lot area around a power plant, then back down a hill. I'm happy to report that they've widened the last part going downhill, so it was much easier to traverse. There are clear maps marking the route, and signs along the way.
The second half of day 2 it began to rain and mist. This would last from 2-8pm, and eventually got us all wet and cold. We'd find a decent beach somewhere in the pine islands, around the 32 mile marker. Once the rain cut off, we were able to start up a fire and have some dinner.
Day 3 was very straightforward. We paddled 10 miles through the wider portion of the river. Eventually you see a bridge, as you get into portage. That's roughly the 3 miles to go marker. You scoot under two bridges, then go to the takeout on the left.
Overall, it was a great trip. Nothing too crazy compared to previous trips. In October, there wasn't much speedboat traffic to contend with. The elements were a challenge, but nothing we couldn't overcome. The Wisconsin river can be a big challenge, but overall goes pretty smooth with its many islands and sandbars.
This past Saturday, I got out on the DuPage river during a near flood. I went from Wiegand park in Naperville to Rivertowne Parkway in Plainfield, about a 15.3 mile journey. Nearby river gauges indicated a near flood scenario, as the water levels were just below flood stage after a few days of heavier rain.
I cruised. It took about 3 hours total, we me breaking for an on river lunch. I paddled hard for half of it, then eased up for part of it as well. 5 MPH rate.
Gauge height readings were as follows:
-Shorewood was at about 5.5 feet (flood stage being 6.5)
-Plainfield was at 10 feet (action stage is 10', minor flood 12)
The river was definitely spilling its banks at points. There were few floating obstacles. If anything, the higher level made it easier to dodge boulders. While the shorelines were consistently at or below the river's water level, the DuPage never felt out of control, or unsafe. It was a fun quick paddle. Not for amateurs.
In late summer, I made two trips down the DuPage River, specifically the rapids section. Spanning from Hammel Woods to Channahon State Park, it is a 10 mile stretch with many twists and turns, and rapids. The height was pretty low, measured at 2.5-3 feet both times at the shorewood USGS gauge
Here's another video of the rapid section in full.
The Kayak Maniac