Canoe/kayak launch

Dan Waldinger, Mahomet parks and recreation program director, and Denise Reynolds, program coordinator, are shown in kayaks at the new canoe/kayak launch site that was recently opened in the community.

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MAHOMET — Area canoers and kayakers are celebrating the completion of a launch site for the watercraft at Mahomet.

The site was made possible by a $122,000 federal recreation trails program grant administered through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Mahomet will pay $24,400 as its share of the 80/20 grant.

“We started this process in 2014,” said Dan Waldinger, Mahomet parks and recreation director. “We applied for a boat access development grant through the Department of Natural Resources.”

The grant was approved but never received due to the state’s fiscal troubles. The federal grant was then approved and the money awarded in 2018. Work, however, was delayed due to wet conditions, and construction was started in the fall of 2019 and completed this year.

Waldinger said the launch site is located in south Mahomet at 1404 S. Division Street. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was recently held.

Recent weeks haven’t been the best time for enthusiasts to use their canoes and kayaks on the Sangamon due to the dry weather and low water.

“Typically the fall is a good time,” but not this year, Waldinger said.

He said the Sangamon River is an asset to the community.

“There certainly aren’t any other rivers in Champaign County. You’d have to go to Homer or Kickapoo” near Danville to find a good launch site.

The site has a paved parking lot, benches, overlook area and bike racks. Six-feet-wide pavement leads down to the launch area, where people can carry their kayak or canoe.

“It’s a nice gradual slope to the river,” Waldinger said.

Mahomet is known for its recreational facilities, with the launch site just the latest amenity.

“It’s one more unique experience for our community,” Waldinger said. “We hope people get out and explore and experience the river and experience nature.”

The Sangamon is known as the river of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln, the only U.S. president to hold a patent, invented a device following his travels on the Sangamon. The patent is a series of buoyancy chambers designed to raise a boat in shallow water.

Waldinger said there are a number of stories about how Lincoln used to cross the river at Mahomet during his circuit-riding days and would stay the night in the community.

Canoers and kayakers who are history buffs can get a little more satisfaction knowing they are launching their watercraft in an area Lincoln traveled.

Village Administrator Patrick Brown said the new launch is “something that the community can be very proud that we have.”

“The village has long identified outdoor recreational use as an attraction to the community with the Champaign County forest preserves, which have expanded — Lake of the Woods and River Bend Forest Preserve, both located in Mahomet,” Brown said.

Our County Editor

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette's Our County section and former editor of the Rantoul Press. He can be reached at dhinton@news-gazette.com.

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