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updated: 5/17/2012 5:35 PM

Best spots to watch Des Plaines River canoe race

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  • A father and son team, Tom and Marty Cassell of St. Charles, did the race dressed as Vikings one year.

       A father and son team, Tom and Marty Cassell of St. Charles, did the race dressed as Vikings one year.
    mark Black | Staff Photographer, May 2010

  • Canoes near the start of the race, in Lake County.

      Canoes near the start of the race, in Lake County.
    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

  • Dumping is not uncommon, as father and son duo Angelo, front, and Ed Gulli, of Lake in the Hills, found out one year.

      Dumping is not uncommon, as father and son duo Angelo, front, and Ed Gulli, of Lake in the Hills, found out one year.
    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

  • Canoe race route

    Graphic: Canoe race route

 
Daily Herald report

In its 55th year, the Des Plaines River Canoe & Kayak Marathon is a great spectator event, as well as being fun for the paddlers. The course is 18 miles on the beautiful and historic Des Plaines River.

Best places to watch:

Start: Lake County Forest Preserve District canoe launch, Oak Spring Road.

Dam #1: Unless there's a race day change of heart, paddlers must portage this dam, getting out of the water on the west side of the river and putting back in downstream of the dam.

Former site of Ryerson Dam: A half-mile walk from the parking lot of the Ryerson Nature Center but view is great.

Rivershire Park: Midpoint of the race, with a takeout option for paddlers who've had enough. Park is accessible from Londonderry Lane, west of Riverwoods Road and just north of Ryerson Nature Preserve.

End: Dam #2, at Kensington Road in Prospect Heights. Parking: Camp Pine Woods Forest Preserve parking lot (east of Route 45; south of Euclid/West Lake Avenue). Overflow parking: Lot east of river, north of Lake/Euclid; or lot west of river, north of Lake/Euclid.

Finish area: Special commemorative and nature exhibits, food and entertainment.

About the race:

• Start time: 8 a.m. Canoes/kayaks start in heats of eight, every two minutes.

• How long: In 2011, the fastest time was 2:17:16, the longest time was 6:58:07. The first boat to cross the finish line isn't necessarily the winner, since all the boats start in heats.

• Started in 1958, the race is the second-oldest continuous canoe marathon in the U.S.

• The Hollister Dam, a half-mile above Route 60, and Daniel Wright Woods Dam, 1 miles south of Route 60, may be run at the paddlers' discretion. The wisdom of this depends on the water level, the paddlers' skill, and a willingness to risk boat damage or dumping.

• Every year race proceeds not earmarked for future races are given to an organization related to canoeing or the Des Plaines River. Among past donations: waterfront programs at "One Step at a Time Camp" for children with cancer; building the canoe launches at Oak Spring Road and at Route 60; posting signs warning of dams ahead.

For information, www.canoemarathon.com.

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