By Charlie Zine –
Editor’s note: Charlie Zine and Chuck Roberts completed an eight-day, 202-mile journey from Colgate, Wis. to Ottawa and finished Monday, July 23. There were two photos on the front page of The Voice last week. Here is Charlie Zine’s focus on the trip.
I have enjoyed playing in the Fox River since I was 10 years old. Then it was rafts, and now it is kayaks.
Twelve years ago I traced the Fox River back to its origin in a one-square-mile swamp, took pictures, and notes and planned one day to paddle it from its source, or highest possible put-in, to its mouth in Ottawa, where it joins the Illinois River after 202 miles from Colgate, Wis., just north of Waukesha, Wis..
Chuck Roberts, a fellow paddler and Fox River enthusiast, recently retired, and asked me to join in just such a paddle. With one week to prepare, we studied the notes, arranged drivers, and organized our gear, including two sea kayaks. Sunday, July 15, friends dropped us at Mill Road where the River is two feet wide on the north side and eight feet on the south side. We put in and eased our way south for the next eight days.
We traversed 26 logjams, three beaver dams, 16 man-made dams, two man-made lakes, three days and nights of rain, shoreline camps with no fire, and wild dangerous Asian Carp fish.
Through the course of my journey I got a bruise on the bottom of one foot and a sore toe, lost 12 pounds, slept very little, got cold at night, almost capsized at the Yorkville bypass channel for lack of my spray skirt, had wild animals walk through our camps three times, killed hundreds of mosquitoes, and yet: I really liked it.
It’s already harder to remember the bad times because there are too many good memories of deer, eagles, turtles, kingfishers, otters, a coyote, and fawns.
There are the individuals who opened bars early to feed us, gave us cases of Gatorade and water, and allowed us to leave boats and gear in their yards.
There was looking in awe at the 30-foot tall Dayton Dam, 5.5 miles northeast of where the Fox River flows into the Illinois River, floating in the crystal clear artesian spring-fed waters of Big Bend, in Wisconsin, riding the wave train in Yorkville, and sleeping in the woods looking at the darkening skies over green forests and marshes.
It is done. It’s checked off the list. I learned more about the Fox River than I thought I already knew, and I like it even more!
By Charlie Zine –