Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Salt Fork River Paddler's Map

We have made a start on a Salt Fork River Paddler's Map of natural, historical, and other sites of potential interest on your next float. Many sites are on private property and should be viewed only from the river; a few sites that are off the river are noted as being on public roads or park property.

This is a work in progress. Please contribute ideas for additional sites by email or comment to this post.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

River Tubing

The Salt Fork River is still quite high and moving rather quickly due to all the recent rains. Please consider this if you have plans to be on the river this 4th of July.

Lately,  I have noticed more and more people on the river in tubes. Tubing can be a great way to relax as one floats down the river. Tubing can be a novel way to experience the river. But tubing can also be dangerous.
  • Please inform others of your plans to go tubing. Where you are going and how long you expect to be gone.
  • Take a cell phone. There are small plastic water tight containers just for cell phones.
  • Check the weather before going.  Storms can come up quickly.
  • Familiarize yourself with the area of the river that you will be tubing on.
  • Wear a life vest and sunscreen.
  • Stay in the tube.
  • Try to have as little impact as possible on the natural area you are in and don't leave trash behind.
  • Most of the land you are floating by is private property.  You need permission to go on it.
As always, have fun and keep safety in mind.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Homer Lake

This morning we had a fun time paddling on Homer Lake, located immediately north of the Salt Fork between Saint Joseph and Homer. We saw lots of fisher people and folks out with their dogs. Even saw another kayak. It was delightful to explore the more shallow coves with the jumping fish and turtles, lovely blooming wild blue iris and arrowhead. The lake can easily be paddled and explored in a morning or afternoon. However, if you are not accustomed to paddling you may only want to do part of the lake. Unfortunately, there was trash that could have been collected but we had nothing to put it in, so next time we paddle the lake we will bring a plastic bag and our nifty "Gopher" pick up tool!
wild blue iris (Iris spp.)

arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia)

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Walking the paths today, the wind was quite strong and the air was full of helicopters, mostly maple seeds being carried long distances from their parent trees. Arriving at the Salt Fork, it was clear that the wind was not the only thing dispersing these seeds. The surface of the river was covered with them, as shown with a sample in the inset, probably a silver maple seed. This is a reminder that hydrochory, the dispersal of seeds by water, is an important transport mechanism for riparian plants. Rivers and their tributaries can carry the seeds long distances and through broad changes in latitude, and downstream floods can deposit the seeds at some distance from the riparian corridor. Such dispersal can help maintain connections between isolated communities of plants as well as support plant diversity along the corridor.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring on the Salt Fork

A short kayak trip on the Salt Fork this afternoon revealed the beauty of the river habitat. The redbuds were in full bloom as were the serviceberries. The emerging leaves of the Sycamore and their white trunks were magnificent as viewed against the bright blue background of the midwest sky. And meanwhile along the shore, blue bells, violets, and spring beauties were blooming everywhere. The scent of the blooming blue phlox was in the air. Needless to say I was so busy taking in the beauty of the vegetation, that I only managed to view a few Canadian geese, a turtle sliding off a log and a heron flying overhead.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Otter Observations

I've lived here on the family farm all my life. When I was young boy, there were no deer, coyotes, beaver, or wild turkeys. Now, another species has been living here on the farm; otters. This season's long term snow cover has revealed otter foot prints along the Salt Fork River.
Jim Smith

<--Otter tracks

Entrance to the den -->

<--Otter slide where one has slid into the water.

Otters enjoy eating the fish in the river, but they don't much like the heads. You can see the sucker head left at the top of the slide.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mirror Image

On the day we kayaked the Salt Fork, the water was so calm that we were able to catch the reflection of the tree silhouettes. Silver maple, cottonwood, black walnut, sycamore, shagbark hickory, red and burr oak, each with its unique branching pattern, are some of the common trees we see along the river.

Winter Kayaking

Yesterday our family decided to celebrate the winter sunshine by taking a short float on the Salt Fork River. The rain washed away the ice a few weeks ago so the channel is open now and the water is fairly clear. We put in upstream of 2500E (near Homer Lake Forest Preserve) at 3:00pm and paddled easily about 2.5 hours before taking out at the Champaign/Vermilion county line. There were no obstructions in the channel so it is an easy and enjoyable float right now. The air temp was ~30 degrees in the sun but no report on the water temp (I am making a note
to tie a cheap thermometer onto my kayak for future trips!).

We had a wonderful afternoon on the water enjoying the snow on the trees, the ice formations above the water, and the quietness of the day. This time of year there are no lawn mowers or tractors running, no bugs, no leaves on the trees, and the air is crisp and clear. This last snowstorm left icy snow stuck to the NE side of the trees and on the ground creating beautiful black and white patterns along the banks and bluffs.

We surprised a few flocks of Canada geese resting on the gravel bars and stirred up a handful of red-tailed hawks, too. We saw two great-horned owls, one near 2500E and the other downstream of the Route 49 bridge, and we occasionally heard black-capped chickadees, red-bellied woodpeckers, and cardinals in the corridor. And there was one chubby raccoon at our take out spot at the Champaign/Vermilion county line but he scurried off into the woods.

A few words on winter paddling~ If you want to give this a try remember to dress warmly in layers as you will be sitting, not hiking. Wearing water-proof pants, jacket, and gloves is helpful if your paddle drips into your lap because if you get wet you will get cold quickly (and we suggest leaving the splashing for those hot summer days!). Take along an extra set of clothes in a water-proof bag just in case you do get wet, and let someone at home know you are out on the water. If you should tip the boat it is a good idea to know there is someone available to pick you up at the next bridge. Wearing sunglasses is another good idea as it can be very bright when the sun is reflecting off the water AND the snow.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so we leave you with these images of our trip. If you are able, we encourage you to consider a float during the remaining days winter, and if you are not able to get into a kayak or canoe we hope these images will bring some joy to your day!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Champaign County Land Resource Management Plan

Last Tuesday evening, Jamuary 26, we attended the open house to review and comment on the LRMP.  There were lots of charts and posters and steering committee menbers on hand to take questions and comments. 

My initial reaction was surprise at how comprehensive the plan is, all 348 pages.  It addresses so many areas of land use in Champaign County.  I encourage you to look at it and express your opinions and ideas. Public comments will be accepted through Feb. 9.

The areas that is of primary interest to this blogger are:
Goal 8 Natural Resources.  Champaign County will strive to conserve and enhance the County's landscape and natural resources and ensure thier sustainable use.

And more specifically:
Objective 8.5 Aquatic and Riparian Ecosystems. Champaign County will encourage the maintance and enhancement of aquatic and riparian habits.  
Objective 8.6 Natural Areas and Habitat.  Champaign county will encourage resource management which avoids loss or degregration of areas represtative of the pre-settlement environment and other areas that provide habitat for native and game species.
Policy 8.7.4.  The County will encourage the establishment of public-private partnerships to conserve woodlands and other significant areas of natural envoronmental quality in CC. 
Action Item 8.7.4. As a cooperative and adjunct effort to any similar action of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District or the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District, develop an information package regarding voluntary establishment of public-private partnerships to conserve woodlands and other significant areas of natural environmental quality in Champaign County.

The idea of getting out information, educating private land owners and encouraging them to do the right thing is something I support.  We all seem to be in agreement that we want beautiful natural areas, but how to preserve and maintain them is what is in dispute.  IMHO, educate people, give them support and tools and the people will do it.  This can be much more productive than the restrictive regulation approach attempted a few years ago.  I applaud CC for starting the efforts to encourage people to do so.

FYI the News Gazette also has a review of the meeting

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Champaign County Forest Preserve Trail Stewardship

The Champaign County Forest Preserve is more than a friend to the Salt Fork River.  The Salt Fork River is actually part of the Champaign County Forest Preserve at Homer Lake.   Activites of the CCFP have an impact on the Salt Fork River.  One activity that indirectly affects the river is the Trail Stewardship Program.  There will be a workshop  about the program January 23 from 10 AM -Noon.  There is more information on their web site:

Invasive species have become a serious threat to all our natural areas from prairies to woodlands to riparian corridors.  It will only be the efforts of people willing to take the time to commit to helping eradicate invasives that will finally make a difference.  Please consider being a steward to a Homer Lake trail and in doing so becoming a Salt Fork Friend.

 Hope to at least see you at the workshop. Preregistration required.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Freezing Up

The river is not yet frozen over. This bitter cold weather is to continue so perhaps the Salt Fork will freeze over yet. This photo was taken on our property which borders the Homer Lake Forest Preserve.