Three die in kayak mishap in IL

-- Last Updated: May-29-06 2:11 PM EST --

A kayaker and two guys attempting to rescue him after he went over a dam in Yorkville, on the Fox River all perish.

Very, very sad.

I couldn't get the link to patch here properly.

Go to and you'll find the story on the main page. It will most likely only show up there today, Monday, and then disappear to their archives tomorrow.


– Last Updated: May-29-06 3:44 PM EST –,1,3030490.story?coll=chi-news-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true

Cut and paste the url

Victim number 1, was said to be chatting on a cell phone before he went over the dam. Second victims (two adult brothers) tried to rescue him from a hydraulic without knowing what they were getting into.


– Last Updated: May-29-06 4:03 PM EST –

The Fox has recently been listed among the 10 most endangered rivers in America despite improving water quality. This is due to increasing threat from its many dams and from rapidly increasing sewage and sediment loads as development surges along its course. Dams are now understood to destroy stream health, and they create dangerous conditions that have led to many deaths by drowning. It now seems likely that despite their picturesque character and their role in local history, all 15 Fox River dams will eventually be removed. These measures and active citizen oversight seem likely to restore the Fox to its former glory.

Classic Example for New Paddlers
Folks that are just getting out on rivers this year should really pay attention to this accident. These are very common and they don’t look dangerous at all.

From the Illlinois Rivers Webpage

“Just east of the Main Street Bridge. The dam creates an unusual trough sometimes at its base and has claimed more than 13 lives, use extreme care if wading near this dam.

Easy portage river left through city park”

I know that dam well. My address growing up until I left home was Yorkville. I did many many trips to Starved Rock St park starting at that dam. There are a lot of dams just about like it all the way up to Elgin. Only one (a hydro dam) between there and the Illinois R. as I recall. Flood control was the origional justification for those dams, I believe.

But as far as restoring the Fox to it’s former glory… well, its one heck of a lot better now than it was when I was a kid.

Its always been pretty. (And as far as I know still is unless its gotten over-developed as so much of the surrounding farmland has.) But when I was a kid that was one thoroughly polluted river. Paddling and camping on it as a youngster fostered a self-image of a post-apocalyptic Huck Finn. There was no EPA back then and most municipalities had something like a community septic tank and used the river as a drain field. Huge bacterial and nutriant loads of course resulted (As if that wonderfully fertile soil that the Fox R. runs through doesn’t supply nutriant enough.) I used to come up with condoms hanging on my paddle blade while learning to J-stroke. They just passed right through the septic and into the river.

Many of the manufacturing facilities (Cat. tractor, Western Electric, Colgate Polmolive to name a few along the river back then…)pretty much dumped directly into the river. I once heard that 80% of the carp had cancer. Carp and bullheads were all that could survive that river at all. You could get boils if you got river water in a cut or blister. (I got pretty good at getting in and out without tracking in water under those conditions. I’m not so good anymore, well, because I just don’t need to be.) Once at the end of a trip I flipped the old Grumman over at takeout and the oxides had been cleaned off the aluminum below the waterline. I’m thinking I paddled through some pretty serious chemical discharge somewhere along that trip. Spooky, eh?

I put a pretty bad scratch in my boat from hitting the hood ornement of a Pontiac - I think - that was standing on its trunk in an undercut bank down by Wedron. The surface swirl looked like just another submerged twig, but when we hit that it said “SKREEEEE” and we stopped so fast we slid off our seats and plopped to the floor. Thats its “former glory” as I recall in the early 60’s and 70’s.

Why paddle it? I paddled it because it was what we had and we couldn’t go on family vacations to Canada every summer. And as far as I knew all the other rivers around northern Illinois were even worse. It was a sorry state of affairs.

And in spite of it all, I had some great times on that river - some of the best of my life. But restore it to its former glory??? Please don’t. Unless you want to go waaay back - maybe before the 1940’s.

Those low head dams aren’t to be run, of course. I’ve seen logs stuck in the hydrolics of that and other dams like it on that river as the seasons changed around them. They’ll certainly keep all kinds of stuff in their grip for a long long while… even paddlers inattentive enough to get caught in them. But is there a river anywhere that hasn’t killed people that lack respect for the power of moving water? Its not the dam’s fault. A paddler has to pay some small amount of attention to what he’s doing while paddling and a rescuer needs to have some idea of what they’re doing before they try to do it.

I’d even go so far as to say I’d like to see the dams out, though many riverfront property owners might take issue with that and it is, in the end, their call. The dams don’t really control floods very well and they are dangerous to the unwary. They will eventually require expensive repair. They raise water temps, increase evaporation rates, increase the alkilinity of the water, hinder fish migration, cause silt deposition and can store toxins… there’s a lot of reasons to oppose dams… but that river has seen far worse abuse than the dams.

I hear there are smallies and walleye in there now. I find that grounds for hope.

And, BTW, has anyone here ever heard of “the Fox”? An early and really pretty moderate monkey-wrenching eco-radical? Poured concrete in the outflow pipes of the Colgate plant and backed them up in their own filth - among other antics… (an organization in reallity, not an individual acting alone) The main guys were from my high school. Oh, those upperclassmen… LOL.

Have heard of the Fox
and have paddled the Kishwaukee and Rock. The Kish wasn’t too bad when I was a kid, late 50s early 60s. I’m sure it could have been better, but it did support bass, catfish, huge snapping turtles and of course suckers and carp. I haven’t been there in years. My cousin says that it’s pretty nice. The Belvidere web site shows a lot of river/park work has been done.

Have you studied anything about the Fox/Sauk tribes whose name the Fox river carries? The history of the Blackhawk Wars is a real eye opener.

Can we do it with Lancasters and skip
bombs, like they did to Ruhr dams in WWII? As for the development, get a surplus A10 and chew out the development before it is occupied.