Thursday, September 5, 2013

Kayaking the Galena River in Illinois

I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day weekend! I took Friday off work as well so I ended up having a nice 4-day weekend.

My brother, Clockwork, came to town, which was very awesome.  Friday night we hung out at my apartment, watched Star Trek: The Next Generation and Red Dwarf.  So, basically, we occupied our Friday night exactly the way we occupied it when we were little kids.

Saturday, I went to Farmer's Market with my girlfriends first thing in the morning and got some delicious fresh produce.

And from some of the above items, delicious peach-jalapeno salsa was made.  Tonight I'll be grilling up that corn because there is SO MUCH of it.  I'm also going to be cooking chicken and Mexican rice with the salsa and I'm going to try making coconut oil refried beans.  I'll let you know how it turns out!  (Or, if you're in town, you should probably just call me and come over for dinner.  You bring the beer.)

After Farmer's Market, I headed out to my parents house to make plans with Clockwork for the kayaking trip we planned to take that day.  Our parents let us use their kayaks and even shuttled us to Galena, IL where we met our uncle who was our guide on the Galena River.

Ok, so here's the point where I need to say the internet knows next to nothing about kayaking on the Galena River.  So I'm going to do a little instructional for people who want to know:

Put-ins on the Galena River:
Buckhill Bridge: Go to downtown Galena, drive all the way down the tourist section of Main Street until it becomes Dewey Ave.  Stay on Dewey Ave. until it becomes Buckhill Rd.  Stay on that until you come to a bridge that goes over what looks like a creek.  That is the Galena River.  On the far side of the bridge, there's a fiftyish-foot-long driveway that has a path that leads to a very primitive put-in.  (aka a couple of pallets tied together and anchored to the shore)
Galena Boat Landing: Alright, this one's pretty easy to get to since it's right in downtown Galena.  I'm not going to provide many details about this, but if you go to Depot park, you can drive under the bridge and get to the parking lot and put-in.
Ferry's Landing: This one's also harder to find.  From HWY 20, you'll turn onto Gear St (this is near McDonald's).  Take Gear St. all the way to S West St. and turn right.  S West St. becomes N Ferry Crossing Landing Rd. which you'll take all the way to the end.  The public put-in is pretty obvious once you're down there.

When we were planning the trip, we knew we had several trips to choose from.  From Buckhill to Galena takes about 2 hours.  From Galena to Ferry's Landing it takes about 2.5-3 hours.  From Buckhill to Ferry's Landing it's 10.5 miles and takes 4-5 hours.

Of course, we opted for the 10.5 mile trek.

One of the coolest things about the Galena River in Illinois is that it goes through historic downtown Galena, IL.  If you don't know much about Galena, you should definitely look at these pictures.  And plan a visit.  Then visit me.  It'll be fun.

The first 3.5 hours of the trip were great.  

Because the water was low, we didn't have much of a current to push us along, but we were content to paddle lazily.  We stopped just a couple of times so Clockwork could get out and investigate some ruined buildings along the river.  Uncle and I stayed in the kayaks and made friends with the ducks.

Quack quack!

Then we floated through downtown Galena.

Luckily I did not get a tan-line from my Vibrams.
We enjoyed the water and the quiet offered by the rural river.

Clocky and I talked about the writing we're both working on and the fun mythic worlds we're creating.

After that, it was all downhill.  

And by downhill I mean "Holy fuckballs why did we decide to paddle 10.5 miles on a river with little shade on a day that was easily 90+ degrees?"

Because of my allergies and asthma, I hate to be without water.  So I made sure to fill 6 water bottles for Clocky and I before we left home.  And since we'd be paddling throughout the afternoon, I also packed a shopping bag full of granola bars to take with us.

Luckily, the water bottles made it into the kayaks.  Unluckily, the granola bars stayed in the van we'd taken to the put-in.  Along with my sun hat.

So, three hours in, Clocky was hungry and I was baking in the sun.  But happily, our uncle, who is consistently in a good mood and is not easily shaken, kept us going.  As we got further down the river and came to a fork, I figured "We can't possibly be that much further from home."  That's when Uncle informed us we had at least another half hour to go.  

As Clocky brought up that he was hoping the end would be "just around the river bend" I of course (all concerns of being obnoxious having been completely cooked out of my brain by the heat) burst into my own spirited rendition of the song from Pocahontas.  And since I didn't have a drum to keep me rowing, I kept singing.

Finally, as we were rowing through buggy, marshy, log-ridden backwaters, I spied buildings up ahead and let out a cheer.  We had finally arrived.  The last 1000 feet of the trip were definitely the hardest of the whole thing because the end was in sight.

But in the end, I felt accomplished and happy that we'd done it :-)

Anyone else have fun misadventures on your Labor Day Weekend?

Much Love,
Annie Jay


  1. oh nooooo. Strenuous activity in the heat is no bueno for me - especially while hungry. Glad you're OK though.

    1. I have experienced heat exhaustion several times before, which is why I was so determined to make sure my brother and I had plenty of water aboard our kayaks. Luckily, even though it was hot as hell, neither of us got dehydrated or even very sunburned. Yay for water and sunblock!

  2. Galena, IL is so pretty! I remember taking trips up there for school as a kid, we'd see the little historical sites and the cute downtown.

    I've never cooked with coconut oil but I do use it as a moisturizer sometimes!

    1. Galena is a cute little town :-) It gets TONS of tourism from Chicago. Our little river towns can be pretty charming when they want to be ;-)

      And I just recently got some for cooking - it's amazing! I've used it for stir-fry, baking, and now the beans - it's a good thing!

    2. Do you get the kind in a jar that's kind of solid looking and just scoop it out?

    3. Yep! I was a little hesitant about it at first but with just a little heat it melts into a lovely oil for cooking!