Going with the flow

Going with the flow

The start of canoeing and kayaking season … in mid-February?

Yes, when the winter has been as mild as this one. It felt like spring when my daughter and I joined several other kayakers for a short paddle on Homer Lake on Sunday.

Mike and Anja Metz of Champaign provided the kayaks. They organize canoeing and kayaking trips for the Champaign Ski & Adventure Club, as well as other activities such as biking, camping and cross country skiing excursions. The couple owns 11 boats, both kayaks and canoes, for ski club members to use.

Blog PhotoHomer Lake is a good place for beginning kayakers to get a feel for the boat and the water, and for others to warm up for the season, Mike Metz said. They don’t have to deal with the varying currents of a river.

But Mike and Anja Metz prefer paddling rivers because of the challenge.

“If it’s swift, you have to respond,” Anja Metz said. “It’s a little bit challenging to read the water and pick your path through where the currents are. It’s fun.”

Locally, they like paddling on the Salt Fork and Middle Fork rivers. In Indiana, they like Sugar Creek, Big Pine Creek, the Big Walnut Creek river system and Wildcat Creek. A favorite place for Mike Metz is the Pine River near Cadillac, Mich.

“It’s fast, it’s windy and it’s very pretty,” he said.

Enjoying nature is a big part of the appeal of kayaking for Metz.

“Out on rivers, you see lots and lots of water birds, and flowers in the spring and deer and turtles,” he said.

Ann Pollok of Champaign was paddling Homer Lake Sunday. She began canoeing with her husband 15 years ago when they lived in Michigan. When they moved to Champaign, she joined the ski club and continued canoeing and kayaking.

For the past 10 years, she’s taken an annual weeklong kayak trip with a group of 10 women. They’ve paddled the San Juan Islands in Washington; at Pemaquid Point, Maine; in South Carolina; and along the Apostle Islands and Pictured Rocks national lakeshores on Lake Superior.

Pollok agreed with Metz about one of the best parts of being on the water: “You can get so close to nature. You feel like you’re part of nature.”

And she likes the laidback, noncompetitive atmosphere of the trips.

“We have the best time -- great food, great wine, great laughs, great kayaking,” she said. “(We) are appreciating the journey. We can go at our own pace.”


What you should know before you get on the water:

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources suggests places to canoe and kayak by region in the state on its website: https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/recreation/CanoeKayak/Pages/default.aspx.

Canoes and kayaks are not required to be titled or registered in Illinois, but the Department of Natural Resources requires each boat to have a water usage stamp ($6 a year).

The state requires a life preserver for each person on board any watercraft, including canoes and kayaks.

The Illinois Paddling Council, an advocacy group, has information about paddling and access to Illinois waterways on its website: http://www.illinoispaddling.info/.

Those looking for boats or equipment should plan to visit Canoecopia, which claims to be the largest paddle sports expo in the world. The expo is March 10-12 in Madison, Wis. More information can be found at www.canoecopia.com.


Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner, swimmer and triathlete. You can email her at jheckel@news-gazette.com, or follow her at twitter.com/jodiheckel. Her blog is at www.news-gazette.com/blogs/starting-line/.

 Photo: Ann Pollok (left) and Brenda Mehnert, both of Champaign, paddle on Homer Lake on Sunday. Photo by Jodi Heckel/For The News-Gazette 

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