On Friday, July 2, Jon and I were back on the Fox, this time doing an 11.5 mile stretch from
Sheridan to Wedron. Svob wrote about this stretch: “Upon being asked to name the three or four most beautiful sections of river in Illinois, any knowledgeable canoeist would have to include this one.” He is right! This section features many cliffs of St. Peters Sandstone, with swallows darting about, chirping and making altogether too much fuss at our passing.
Except for a few homes here and there, the scenery between the towns feels wild and untamed. In addition to the majestic cliffs and lots of islands, the scenery is pastoral, with grazing cows and fields of wildflowers. We only saw two groups of people on the water, one with canoes and the others tubing, but no powerboats. There are a couple of services that offer shuttles and canoe rentals for this stretch. I had to pay $10 to access a landing in Sheridan and was also prepared to pay at the take-out. But when I was looking for that location, I talked with a local, who let me use his concrete ramp for free. Barring such serendipity, be prepared to pay to put in and take out. I would not recommend using a bike to shuttle. Somonauk Road, the most direct route back to Sheridan, is too busy and the shoulder isn’t wide enough to ride a bike safely. The next day, Jon, my wife Esther, and I loaded up two vehicles with camping gear and the kayaks en route to the hilly country of west-central Illinois to spend three days paddling the Spoon River. We camped two nights at the Webb’s Valley View campground just outside of Lewistown.
There isn’t much time to dawdle on the Spoon. I had to take water sips quickly as the sinuous channel required near-constant steering. I wasn’t surprised that we didn’t see anybody on this stretch. We didn’t put in until 3 PM and the difficulty of access discourages use. But the arduous put-in rewarded us with a level of solitude rarely enjoyed in Illinois. It was just us and the herons, bald eagles, and the occasional carp leaping out of the water, startled at our sudden appearance.
It was a hot day, but a gentle breeze and the lengthening shadows kept us cool. Recent rains made for a fast current and it only took us three hours to get to the landing, which is just a couple miles from where the Spoon joins the Illinois River and in the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, an 11,000-plus acre wetland reserve.
Even though it was a holiday weekend, the campground wasn’t too busy. It seems to cater to the retiree RV set. Maybe the hot weather kept people away. We didn’t complain. Our camp was blessedly quiet. We enjoyed s’mores after dinner and listened to coyotes howling and the distant boom of fireworks. The only light show we enjoyed was provided by the lightning bugs!
A word from the contributor: Thanks so much for helping facilitate this fun outing. We really enjoyed the kayaks. They are so much more maneuverable than our 17 foot Coleman canoe. I don't know if I'll ever want to use it again. I rented two kayaks (a single and a double) from the Adventure Center at NIU on June 29, 2021, with a return date of July 6. I used the book Paddling Illinois by Mike Svob to plan our trips on two rivers, the Fox and the Spoon.