McDowell camping trip offers nearby ‘roughing it’
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media July 25, 2013 9:18AM
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is hosting an overnight program of kayaking, camping, nature exploration and more along the West Branch of the DuPage River during Weekend River Trip July 27 and 28. | Submitted Photo
Weekend River Trip
♦ July 27-28
♦ McDowell Grove Forest Preserve, McDowell Road and Raymond Drive, Naperville
♦ Cost, $50
♦ (630) 933-7248
Updated: July 28, 2013 1:39PM
People who like the outdoors will have a chance to experience the best wilderness DuPage County has to offer this weekend.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County hosts a Weekend River Trip that begins at McDowell Grove Forest Preserve in Naperville at 1 p.m. Saturday. Participants will park there and then take a shuttle to the launch point upstream.
From there, they will receive instruction on kayaking basics before an afternoon of paddling to Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville, where they’ll spend the night at the family campground. If all goes according to plan, paddlers should arrive back at McDowell Grove by 4 p.m. on Sunday.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to pull together for awhile, and with the recent river cleanup we had to hold back on the idea for a little bit,” said Jay Johnson, manager of site operations with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. “And now is a great time to take advantage of the river now that it has some new life and some new features to it.”
This “mega program” incorporates several features; including camping, kayaking, hiking, cast iron cooking and archery.
With the newest kayaks available, he said, almost anyone can kayak with brief training. Additionally, the newer versions don’t require a whole lot of water, so future trips won’t have to rely on adequate river levels.
“That’s another neat component to this bigger program. We’re going to give folks a taste of several preserves, instead of just being at one static location,” he said.
After the afternoon of kayaking, a night of camping awaits participants at the Blackwell Forest Preserve. Participants are encouraged to bring their own tents; if they don’t own one, there are a limited number available to borrow.
They’ll cook supper using cast iron. In the morning, they’ll have a simple breakfast before taking a nature hike through Blackwell. They will have a chance to try out some archery and do some fishing at the new Blackwell recreation complex, he said. Then it’s back in the kayaks and float down to McDowell.
“Along the way, we’ll incorporate some history and some wildlife knowledge information throughout the trip at various locations,” he said. “Each of our preserves has its own unique history and information to go along with it.”
It’s a bit of an undertaking, but he’s very excited, he said. He hopes to be able to do a lot more of these types of excursions.
“It’s a real bargain for $50 per person. We hope this will take off (so) we can do this again in the near future.”
Call the Forest Preserve to see if spots are still available. If not, he will start a waiting list of sorts for a future program.
He hopes that people get a great appreciation and love of the outdoors through the program.
“And in this case, our biggest goal is showing all the unique recreational aspects that are close to home,” he said. “I think people will be quite surprised at all the things we have to offer 10 minutes from home.”