Paddling The ‘Kish
(Cherry Valley to Atwood Park)
Paddlers looking for a scenic trip near Chicago should consider floating the waters of the Kishwaukee River. Located 90 miles northwest of Chicago, near Rockford, Ill., the ‘Kish offers outdoors’ types the opportunity to paddle one of the clearest streams in Northern Illinois.
“For the paddler looking for a pleasant day paddle in an idyllic setting, the ‘Kish offers the opportunity to experience nature in a natural setting,” says John Heneghan, a former river, hiking, backpacking and outdoors’ guide. “And it’s one of my favorite paddles in Northern Illinois.”
Paddlers looking for a scenic trip near Chicago should consider floating the waters of the Kishwaukee River.
Located in Winnebago County, the Kishwaukee River is one of the most paddling-friendly streams in all of Illinois. Running along many local parks and forest preserves, the ‘Kish offers first-rate access and a scenic undisturbed setting. The river’s sand-and-gravel beds feature some of the clearest water quality of any Illinois stream. The river was named by the Potawatomi Indians and the word, “Kishwaukee” means sycamore, as the rivers banks are lined with many sycamore and silver maple trees.
Put-in At Baumann Park
Entering the river put-in at Baumann Park in Cherry Valley, paddlers will float down a river of scenic beauty and public land. Paddlers will float past the McKiski, Cherry Valley, Blackhawk Springs, Kishwaukee River, Rockford Rotary and Kishwaukee Gorge forest preserves before reaching the take-out at Atwood Park 8.5 miles downstream.
The river is between 60 feet and 100 feet wide on this section of the river.
The river is between 60 feet and 100 feet wide on this section, and the trip should last at least three hours. The river is an easy paddle with open, broad curves and no rapids, but several fun riffles. And the angler is not forgotten: the ‘Kish is known for its smallmouth bass fishing; and neither is the photographer, as the Kishwaukee Gorge is a favorite setting for outdoor photographers.
If you’re looking for a great guide to paddling the “Prairie State,” be sure to pick up a copy of “Paddling Illinois,” by Mike Svob ($18.95, Trails Books, 800-236-8088, www.trailsbooks.com).
Other rivers worth exploring in Winnebago County are the Pecatonica and Sugar rivers. Canoe rental is available from North Park Rental Service (815-633-9234), and camping is available at the nearby Rock Cut State Park. The Kishwaukee River is best floated from March to November.
For more information, maps and directions, contact the Winnebago Forest Preserve District, (815) 877-6100, http://www.wcfpd.org/Preserves/canoing.htm.