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Stand-up Paddleboarding the Galena River, Illinios

Galena is quickly becoming our home away from home in Chicago. We recently traveled back for another glorious weekend which included a nice balance of leisure and outdoors. This trip we did a paddle with Fever River Outfitters and I had my first experience with Stand-Up Paddleboarding

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With our first trip to Galena being a resounding success, we were eager to return now that we had a little more ground-level knowledge about the place. Our first trip to a new destination is mostly about making a list of things to return to. Towards the top of our “Northwest Illinois List” was a gentle paddle down the Galena River.

Galena is a favorite destination for many of us busy Chicagoians. Accessible and rather posh, its perfect for long weekends and getaways. The comparatively rugged scenery of the northwest fin of the state starkly contrasts with the common idea that Illinois is flat and uninteresting. One could easily into several thousand feet of elevation gain and loss if on a bike. Hiking opportunities abound too. I’ve thought of it as New England Scenery meets Midwestern Nice.

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A unique experience to be had in this part of Illinois is on the Galena River. In the late summer, the river looks serene and unassuming. Tall levees on either side would point towards a different story in the early spring. Nevertheless, the river remains in a very natural state which starkly contrasts the Chicago River we are used to.

I’ve never been stand up paddleboarding before but Dee is a tremendous fan. Being a yoga teacher and a lady quite fond of all things water, she took to stand up paddleboard yoga as a way to combine her favorite things. We rented through Fever River Outfitters and has a nice 4 hour trip up and down the river.

Initially we headed north past most of the iconic sights of Galena. The town’s golden gate bridge instantly came into view and towered over our little paddleboards. Clearly the river gets quite high as the bridge looked strongly built- like it could withstand a tremendous amount of force from a spring river. Towards the right, the famous Grant Park and all of its Civil War era relics were nicely framed.

Grant Park who’s famous lettering was washed away in a major flood. Of course, somebody’s Eagle Scout Project was restoring this sightly location!
The river bottoms out quite easily in some sections so it is prudent to paddle slowly as to not break a fin. The fever river, namesake of our outfitters, came in to view too. We worked our way up it a ways before getting in to too shallow of water.

After passing under the second pedway, we were soon clear of the city and in a wilder part of the river. If there was a current, we could hardly detect it and we effortlessly paddled onwards. SUPing isn’t as labor-intensive as kayaking but it is more of a full-body workout. Going at a gentle pace involves both upper and lower body posture and poise which isn’t difficult to learn. Being that Dee was an experienced SUP-er and yogi, she quietly out-paddled me.

 

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Outside of town the trees and flora close in and the river seems just about as wild as it has ever been. Horseshoe mount looms overhead and the rugged landscape of this part of the state is clearly appreciated. We saw a few other intrepid paddlers on our trip but for the most part we were alone. This late in the summer, the river was teaming with life and a cacophony of noise from insects and birds. Such a pleasant noise to hear when one is used to the roar of downtown Chicago!

At some point we turned around and half-floated/half-paddled our merry way back through Galena. Had we more time, we would have liked to have made it to the Mississippi River about 4 miles away. We did paddle about another half a mile down the river from our starting point and further appreciated a waterway in its natural state.

I’m used to the “dawn to dusk” long distance kayak paddling trips which usually involve more effort than appreciation of scenery. I admit I’ve long made fun of standup paddleboarding as a fake sport but this trip I really came to like this pasttime. Its a less intense way to experience the river but still we felt we burned enough calories to enjoy more food downtown. I’ll sheepishly admit that I was even a bit sore after 4 hours of paddling, something Dee will never let me live down.

We found another way to explore our new-favorite getaway! I’m sure we will be back in the fall.

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Blog originally posted on Sept. 26, 2015 by Quincy Koetz