Tag Archives: yorkville whitewater park

Bald Eagles in Yorkville Again

In the 1960’s I had already assumed I would never see a bald eagle in the wild. I assumed that if I ever made it to my mid 50’s, they would either be extinct or you might be able to go visit a few in a bird sanctuary somewhere.

Growing up in Chicago made those assumptions more realistic than not. The chances of seeing a bald eagle, or making it to my mid 50’s, in the Chicago area… why would that happen?

And yet, 45 years later, living a two minute walk to the Fox River in Yorkville, 50 miles from downtown Chicago, bald eagle sightings have become almost commonplace, but still fascinating.

I see them year round while out fishing the river, but winter seems to concentrate them in the open water below the Yorkville dam. Last year my friend and avid bird watcher, Larry Granat, saw a dozen in one day. For the birders, he runs a Facebook page called The Kendall County Bird Page and it’s worth a visit.

A couple of winters ago I was out on my front porch when an eagle came drifting up from the river. The crows were following him and you can tell he was annoyed. To take a break and to get away from the crows, he landed in the tree in my front yard, directly over my head. Of course, no camera.

This morning I made my usual trip down to the dam area to see what birds were around. Besides the ducks and geese, herons were stalking the island shore and seagulls were drifting on the wind. Within 15 minutes I had seen four bald eagles, three adults and a juvenile. I was expecting to see none this day.

I know birders in Chicago and the surrounding areas that travel out to the Rock River, the Mississippi River or down to Starved Rock for the off chance of seeing bald eagles. Why travel if you don’t have to, they’re barely 50 miles away.

While out here, stop in at River City Roasters to warm up and grab some coffee and something to eat. They’re right on the river and overlooking the dam. From a window seat, you might not even have to stand around out in the cold to catch sight of an eagle.

Oh yeah, I forgot, the usual question… where the hell is Yorkville?

You know where Aurora is? Yorkville is about 12 miles southwest of there.

Here’s a map.

The eagles should be around all winter. If you’ve always wanted to see one, it beats driving 100 miles or more for the opportunity.

A Walk in the Neighborhood

Living on the edge of town, on the edge of civilization by Chicago standards, I usually hop in the car and drive for 10 or so minutes to the west to find something remote to walk around in. Today I decided to stroll around the neighborhood, down to the river, over to the wooded ravine that’s steps from my house. Haven’t really done that in awhile, at least the exploratory part of it. Couldn’t think of a good reason to hop in the car.

Two minutes down a hill to the Fox River and I’m still about 30 feet above the river. The next town downstream is about eight miles away and you can’t see it from the river anyway. Just a lot of this:


The mouth of the ravine is barely noticeable if you were canoeing down the river. Not much water flowing through it on a normal day. I have seen it flooded with the sound of rushing water at a deafening level, but even in this year of drought it never dried up completely. A small gravel bar lets you get a bit of a river vantage.


I’m not sure this could even be called a creek. It winds through a small flood plain, very small.


I guess at some point this warning made sense, but you have to see this area to appreciate how useless this warning has become.


It seems that every small river town has railroad tracks that follow the river. Crossing the tracks and following this small creek upstream, the creek bed suddenly changes. I’ve fished numerous creeks that feed into the Fox and have wandered up quite a few ravines. This is the only one I can recall that has these stair steps of limestone.


As you wander further up, the bed of the ravine is a limestone slab with river boulders lying around. Some of the boulders are an impressive size. I’m assuming they’re remnants of the last ice age, I see them out in the river all the time, but at this point I’m a good 40 feet above the river.


I decided to take the short walk into downtown, if it can be considered that. The river, a few stores and a kayak chute that was put in not long ago as a compromise to tearing out the town dam completely. Not much else to it. It is a nice place to hang out, but I hardly ever do.


I never go fishing here. Downstream where I just was, nobody goes. I know miles upon miles of river I can wade where I never see another person. Suits me fine. Then I don’t have to feel compelled to confront stupid people. I guess “No Fishing in the Bypass Channel” doesn’t refer to them.

Better to avoid the discussion altogether. They tend to go nowhere and the stupid never learn.


The walk home from there is kind of pleasant. Up a few hills, yes, even in Illinois. From river level to the ridge where I live has to be a good 60 feet. Zig zagging home is a good half mile. Get’s a good burn going in calves and thighs. Reminds me of why I should do it more often. Down at the end of a dead end street, up against the wall of trees that start the ravine and I’m home.

Not a bad neighborhood for a stroll now and then.

What? What’d I do Wrong?

A few times a week I take a walk. I live a little over a half mile from the Yorkville dam and it’s a nice hike there and back. Actually have a decent steep hill to walk up and down to test and stretch my joints and muscles.

Whenever there are fishermen hanging out fishing around the dam, you can bet at some point one of them will be fishing in the, well, that’s the problem.

Is it a bypass channel?

Maybe a kayak chute?

Or is it the Marge Cline Whitewater Course?

The average fisherman is a pretty simple human being and when it comes to fishing, you can’t tell them where they can or cannot fish. Especially if you’re not making it painfully clear to them.

Once you start having a conversation with them, trying to explain to them that they can’t fish in a certain area, the conversation gets turned around. It gets twisted in a way so that the fisherman at least thinks he’s winning the argument. He’s going to fish there. He’s going say whatever he has to say to make that happen.

By the time you are done, you’ll be doubting your sanity and wondering if there isn’t a camera crew from TruTV hiding off behind a bush somewhere filming the whole thing.

There are signs on either end of the kayak chute saying No Fishing in the Bypass Channel. I knew when I saw the sign that it was a waste of time. The type is too small.

Look at the bottom of the photo. There’s a guy standing behind the sign fishing. When I told him he couldn’t fish there, I got “I didn’t see anything on any sign.” When he didn’t argue with me and packed up and left, I knew he was lying.

That’s what fishermen do.

Take a look at the last line of small black type. No Fishing in the Bypass Channel. In order to be an effective no fishing sign you have to have one this big with nothing else on it but the no fishing warning. The no fishing warning has to fill the whole sign and, even then, you’ll find fishermen standing right next to it fishing and when you say something you’ll get the exact same response I did.

Part of the problem is, what the hell is a bypass channel? You can bet that’s running around the in the fisherman’s head.

I wandered all over the park. I know this is called the Marge Cline Whitewater Course, but I couldn’t find a sign anywhere stating that. The name should be on the sign to make it clearer to the fishermen. They have no clue what a bypass channel is, but they do understand putting titles on important things.

Not that they care.

To simplify it even more, since there are usually kayaks playing around in the whitewater course, even fishermen know what a kayak is.

Call it a kayak chute, put that on the signs and be done with it.

No Fishing in the Kayak Chute.

In the long run it still won’t matter. It didn’t matter the other day when I was wandering around along the kayak chute. There were two people fishing the fast water of the chute. While a guy in a kayak was telling one they couldn’t fish there, I thought I would take pictures of the other.

He saw the other fisherman getting shagged off, so he hurried things up a bit and fired off a few casts all the way across the chute.

As the guy in the kayak floated toward him, the fisherman turned his back on him, walked further up the shore and started fishing up there.

I already know if you were to confront this guy he would first deny seeing the sign, which would be a lie. Then he’d say he didn’t know, which would be another lie. Then he’d say he wasn’t fishing around the kayaks, which is irrelevant.

You can see how this would continue. He’d always have something to say in his defense, even if his defense is pointless.

That’s what the average fisherman does.

The guy in the kayak saw me taking pictures and wandered over to where I was standing. We talked awhile about the ignorance of fishermen. The other thing that came up was the hazards of hooks getting lost in the chute. Inside those little kayaks, all they have on their feet are neoprene socks, no shoes or boots. The other day while wandering around the kayak chute, I found these lying around.

These hooks are relatively small, but to a kayaker that flips over and has to put his feet down, getting one of these in your foot is going to suck. Even worse, I found one of these on the bottom of the river the other day.

That can cause some pretty major problems.

The kayaker and I talked about signage, it’s size, what it should say and where it should be put. That night, I put a comment on the City of Yorkville Facebook Page saying that they need to do something about this. They need to put up more and bigger signs.

Today when I wandered down to the river, someone had put up a new sign.

That’s not going to work. The type is even smaller than what is on the big yellow sign that the fishermen say they never saw.

Plus they call it a Whitewater Park. Now you’ve got the fishermen even more confused. Still another term. I already know a fisherman is going to tell you he wasn’t fishing in the park.

So, here are my suggestions. Call it a kayak chute. Simple and to the point. No Fishing in the Kayak Chute. Six words I know is a lot, but I can’t figure out which one to get rid of to make it even shorter for the fishermen to understand.

Make the signs big, huge, bright yellow with gigantic black type that fills the sign from top-to-bottom and side-to-side.

One has to go on the south side of the river near the footbridge. If necessary, get two of them, that way they can be seen from a variety of directions.

Another one needs to go on the bridge. As you walk to the end of the bridge, the whole field of view should be filled with the sign. This photo will give you an idea of what I’m talking about. As you walk, all you should see at the end is nothing but sign.

The other option is to have a bunch of 3 foot by 4 foot signs made up, again, filled with No Fishing in the Kayak Chute. All along the kayak chute, on both sides, one of these signs should be placed every 50 feet. From the beginning to the end of the kayak chute.

I have a feeling that won’t be all that visually appealing.

Even then I already know that idea is doomed to fail.

One day you’ll go down to the kayak chute and there will be a fisherman.

He’ll be standing smack dab in the middle between a couple of the signs, fishing the kayak chute.

He’ll be so centered between those signs that if you got out a tape measure and measured, you’d find that he missed dead center by less than an inch.

If you go up to him and tell him he can’t fish in the kayak chute, his eyebrows would go up, his eyes would widen, his head would slowly turn both up and down stream.

Then he’d look you dead in eyes and without batting an eye he’d say…

“I didn’t see no signs.”

Footbridge Over Marge Cline Whitewater Course in Yorkville Finally Installed

Back in December 2011, the footbridge that was slated to go over the Marge Cline Whitewater Course at the Bicentennial Riverfront Park in Yorkville, was finally put in place. The first week of January, during one of my many strolls along the Fox River, I noticed that someone had left the gate open for the bridge. I took the open invite to go do some exploring.

I recall reading somewhere that the bridge should make a good vantage point to watch the kayakers play in the course. That it will do.

Someone with a better camera than I have should be able to get some decent photos of them.

I imagine the Geneva Kayak Center, which is located at the head of the whitewater course, will be taking advantage of this.

There’s a foot path that runs the length of the island so you get some pretty nice views of the whole whitewater course. You will have to watch you’re step though, the geese seem to have taken a liking to this little island.

Since anglers are not allowed to fish anywhere near the course, without the bridge in place to get to the man made island that separates the course from the dam, for the last two years there really has been no place for anglers to go. This used to be a pretty popular spot and in years past on one day I recall seeing up to 30 anglers fishing the river between the dam and the Route 47 bridge.

For all of 2011, I don’t think I saw a half dozen anglers in the whole area.

Now that they can get to the island, I don’t think fishing there is going to be all that easy. Before the building of the course and the rebuilding of the dam, the south shoreline was relatively level and rock free. Not any more.

A little further down there’s a very short stretch that I’m sure the anglers will be clearing of all the small rocks so they can plop down their lawn chairs.

The south shoreline of this little island is not going to fit that many anglers though, no matter how many of those little rocks they throw back into the river. Fishing in the whitewater course itself will still be off limits.

I spoke to someone that lives overlooking the dam. Apparently, a few feet out into the river from the south shore of the island, is a channel that was created. He thinks its a good five or six feet deep. I know I won’t be going in there to find out. That pretty much guarantees that few will be trying to walk across the river from the island.

It would be a shame if the anglers didn’t return, a few new businesses have opened up on the edge of Bicentennial Riverfront Park (River City Roasters, Creative Kernels and White Water Ice Cream) and it would be nice to see them prosper. Maybe the loss of anglers will be offset by a gain in kayakers.

Back in August of 2011 I wrote about how the north shore of the river here is accessible to anglers. Apparently nobody is passing on that information to the anglers. I think I’ve written about it four times now and this will be the last time. They don’t show up, it will be their loss.

I’ll keep spreading the word to the kayakers to come visit instead.

Wild Asparagus, a Bridge, Beer and Leaf Burning

Who are you? Carnac? What does any of that have to do with fishing.

Everything is related somehow. Sometimes you just have to wait awhile till they all catch up with each other.

Saturday was a work day. There were things that needed to get done around the yard and it was going to be a gloriously beautiful day. Mid 60s, mild winds and plenty of sunshine.

The house I rent sits on a 100 X 150 foot lot. I guess that’s big. It’s bigger than anywhere else I’ve lived. By neighborhood standards though, it’s one of the smaller lots. On the lot and immediately bordering it to within a few feet are a dozen trees. A couple of big maples that refuse to change colors or drop any leaves. A couple of big old oaks that aren’t having that problem. A couple of big black walnut trees and a few that defy identification, mainly because I’m too lazy to look it up.

Except for the two maples, most of the other trees are almost done shedding their leaves. Most of the leaves wound up on my roof, in the gutters and covering just about every square inch of the yard. Starting on the leaf removal process had to wait though. We had a heavy frost over night and everything was covered with a thin layer of ice, including the roof. My wife may like to refer to me as the idiot, but even I’m not dumb enough to go climbing up on an ice covered roof.

I knew it would take till at least noon to dry everything out, there’s no point in trying to rake and blow around soaking wet leaves. This left me with a bit of spare time to kill.

On the side roads I take to get to the main road to work, I’ve found a stretch where wild asparagus seems to be growing quite well in that strip of land between the road and the corn fields. I decided to go do a little more exploring.

It’s much better than I thought. For over a mile, both sides of the road have one wild asparagus plant after another. This time of year they’re pretty easy to spot as they go to seed. Considering the amount of traffic this little two lane road sees, I’m surprised it hasn’t been picked clean. But then, I guess those living in the subdivisions not that far away would probably prefer getting their asparagus from a grocery store.

Over the summer I found a massive bunch of wild asparagus on an island in the middle of the Fox River. If nothing else, I know nobody will get to that bunch. It’s a shame I now have to wait till spring.

On the way home I stopped at the Marge Cline Whitewater Course. There sitting on shore was the new bridge that is to span the whitewater course so people can walk out to the small island between the dam and the course.

I was hoping this was forgotten about and the bridge was never going to be put up. I had sung the praises in a previous post of the benefits of having fewer anglers in this stretch. I’m afraid putting in the bridge will bring them all back along with all their garbage. I was just starting to get used to seeing this stretch of the river nice and clean.

Back at home everything was dry and I spent the next 4 hours blowing leaves out of gutters and then moving endless piles of leaves out to the curb in any way that worked. Blowing worked up to a point, the point where the leaf pile was 3 feet high and still had to be moved another 20 feet to the edge of the street. At that point it was quicker and easier to move it all with a rake. Low tech is some times better.

Of course one big pile was collected around the fire pit. It was time. A good beer was brought out and all it took was one small flame on one leaf to begin the next hour of burning.

And burn I did. To build it up even more, I went through the hoard of mother-in-law junk that’s stacked in the garage. Anything that was busted and broken and made of wood got tossed onto the pyre.

Too soon I was out of things to burn.

I settled into a lawn chair. Flames in the fore ground, waning light as a back drop, I opened another good beer and sat staring into the flames until they died into a pile of smoldering ash. I looked up into the maple that refuses to give up its leaves.

Sure looks like I’ll be doing this again next week.