Sunday, January 01, 2012

Photos and video: Happy Canoe Year from Morton Grove

In 1985 Niles resident Ralph Frese, "Mr. Canoe," started the New Year's Day Canoe Paddle, which is held annually on the North Branch of the Chicago River. It's sponsored by the Cook County Forest Preserve District; it starts at the Willow Road Dam in Winnetka and ends in Linne Woods in Morton Grove. I live in Morton Grove--all of the photos and videos were taken there. Google Maps says the distance between the two points is almost seven miles, because of the many bends on river, it's a longer journey on a canoe--or a kayak.


The section of the North Branch where the New Year's Day Canoe Paddle takes place was renamed the Ralph Frese River Trail several years ago.


This canoer was one of the earliest finishers. Although this event is not a race. About 200 people participated.



My apologies in regards to the wind audio distortion, but this video shows the toughest part of the endeavor--Chick Evans Golf Course. There are few trees there. The low branches--it is not treeless--posed an additional impediment for the rowers and they are paddling directly into a strong wind.


Here a a couple of kayakers. Roughly two-thirds of the rowers were canoers.


These canoers are disembarking at the Ballard Road Dam portage.


This is the dam. A few moments later the kayaker on the right rode over the top of it. He was the only person I saw who accomplished that feat. When the river level is higher, everyone paddles over, a veteran of this event told me.


The portage. It was relatively warm for New Year's Day--35 degrees. As you can see there is no snow on the ground, we've only had a trace of it this winter so far.



With a bit of glare included, you can watch a portage take place.


There is our dam-conqueror a few moments after skipping the portage.


A funny hat greatly increases your chances of catching my eye and having your picture posted on Marathon Pundit.


The couple that rows together flows together.


Ed Dubowski (left) and Jim O'Malley were the first finishers in today's New Year's Day Paddle. But to quote David Letterman, "This is an exhibition, not a competition. Please, no wagering."



Watch them disembark in Linne Woods.

UPDATE Jan 2: The event's organizer, Ralph Frese, left this comment about the 2012 event:
John, you forgot to mention that our new CC Board Forest Preserve District president, Toni Preckwinkle, paddled for the second year with key staff of the Forest Preserve District and what a wonderful job they did of organizing everything to encourage our citizens to take advantage of this wonderful resource, our river and the woodlands bordering it. Check our website, friendsofthemortongroveforestpreserves.org for more interesting trivia about the river and our woodlands along it.
I didn't see Preckwinkle, if I had, I would have reported it. I'm glad she was there. And yes, the CCFPD did performed admirably yesterday and they were quite helpful to me as I walked my way up the river.


My friend Dale Cooney (left) sent me the below photograph. Frese is the bearded man in the center, to his right is Preckwinkle.


There is Cooney, who was the third person to finish the New Year's Day Paddle.

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4 comments:

Donald Douglas said...

I would have fallen in the water!

Happy New Year!

John Ruberry said...

Happy New Year to you! I heard a couple of people did tumble in at that rough patch exposed by the wind, but the organizers won't let anyone's canoe or kayak into the river until they see the rowers are probably dressed--with water-resistant clothing. And the North Branch of the Chicago River is only a foot or two deep in Morton Grove.

ralph frese said...

John, you forgot to mention that our new CC Board Forest Preserve District president, Toni Preckwinkle, paddled for the second year with key staff of the Forest Preserve District and what a wonderful job they did of organizing everything to encourage our citizens to take advantage of this wonderful resource, our river and the woodlands bordering it. Check our website, friendsofthemortongroveforestpreserves.org for more interesting trivia about the river and our woodlands along it. Ralph Frese

Audrey Fischer said...

First timers for my hubby & I for Happy Canoe Year Paddle. We had a wonderful experience. Ralph Frese started something magical; Bless the volunteers--they kept the magic flowing. Beautiful water trails, beautiful smiles everywhere... a sight to b e h o l d ... a beautiful way to begin the new year. Thanks FPDCC for a gift of nature within the city. Now, Toni Preckwinkle & Commissioner Larry Suffredin, if we could only add STARlight over this river. . . , , ,, , ,