Friends of the DuPage River are encouraging folks to grab a kayak, canoe, paddleboard or tube Saturday for the inaugural Rally on the DuPage River outing.
“The purpose is to promote usage of the river and to promote conservation on the river: picking up your trash and taking what you brought with you plus some,” rally organizer Ralph Osuch said.
Besides having fun and picking up garbage, the day also is a chance to learn river etiquette, such as accessing the water via public launch points, Osuch said.
“We’re just bringing awareness to the fact that there is a private property along the river and you need to stay off it. You need to just float by or paddle by or whatever it is you’re doing,” he said.
Because the event is free and there are miles of river, Friends of the DuPage River is encouraging participants to post a selfie on their favorite social media site with #rallyonthedup to help the group track of how many joined the event.
Getting more people participating in recreation on the river is a way to show legislators the importance of reclassifying the river for public use, Osuch said.
On the books is a rule that some Illinois Supreme Court justices in a recent ruling said was antiquated because it allows property owners to restrict recreational use of small rivers and streams that cross their private land.
State Rep. Janet Yang Rohr, D-Naperville, has said she plans to introduce legislation in the November veto session that would preserve access and public recreational use of the rivers like the DuPage while respecting private property rights.
A tributary to the Des Plaines River, the DuPage River is 28 miles long.
The West Branch starts in Schaumburg in Cook County and continues south through DuPage County and downtown Naperville.
The East Branch starts in Bloomingdale in DuPage County and flows southward past Lisle and the Greene Valley Forest Preserve and into Will County near Whalon Lake Forest Preserve. The latter two are in unincorporated Naperville.
The two branches unite to form the DuPage River near 95th Street and Boughton Road and then traverse south to Channahon, where the DuPage meets the Des Plaines River.
“It is the perfect river for this area. It’s so fun. It is so clean,” Osuch said.
That said, just because a person can see the bottom in most places doesn’t mean there are no hazards lurking in the depths, he said.
A few years ago he’d walk barefoot in the river on float trips until he saw what a fellow Friends of the DuPage River were dragging from the water, Osuch said.
In a Facebook Live event Tuesday, Tom Merrion, of Plainfield, said he trolls the bottom of area rivers with a magnet to fish out “tetanus-inducing bad stuff.” Metal objects have included bicycles, pipes, pliers, signs, barbed wire, and spikes and rebar of various sizes.
“Even though the river might look clean in a particular spot, I find screws and nails and all sorts of rusted junk,” Merrion said.
Osuch said he always wears shoes now.
“I was nuts for walking that thing barefoot, especially by the bridges,” where Osuch said a lot of construction debris dating back to when the bridges were built can be found.
Merrion will bring out his trusty magnet Saturday to hunt for metal objects accidentally dropped in the river, including phones, keys or fobs.
To assist with the search, Friends of the DuPage River asks people to send a message to Merrion through the group’s Facebook page with a screenshot of a map location where an object was lost.
One perk of floating down the river Saturday is the chance to get discounts later that day at eight DuPage and Will County dining, brewery and entertainment spots. Participants will need to show proof of a selfie taken on the river that day to get the discount.
Because Osuch lives in Plainfield and it’s the inaugural event, six of the eight participating establishments are in his hometown: Mora Asian Fusion, Station One Smokehouse, Garage Band Brewing and Tap House Grill are in downtown Plainfield and Backroads Pub & Grill and Ax Factor Throwing are on US 30.
The other two are Wolfden Brewing Co. on US 20 in Bloomingdale and Wheatstack, a restaurant at the River Bend Golf Club on Route 53 in Lisle.
Osuch said anyone who doesn’t have a vessel of their own can rent a kayak or paddleboard from Naperville Kayak or tubes from Plainfield Tubing. Both will pick up customers and return them to the launch.