I am often asked what made me come to Ottawa and more often I am asked in my role as Harbor master my thoughts about ‘The River.’ I thought I would use this newsletter to explain a few of my thoughts on the topic “The River:”
Since I was small boy, I have loved boats and boating. My grandfather’s motor is restored and sits in my office – a reminder of great times on a lake in northern Michigan. Nearly all of my time spent boating has been on a clear, cool lake in Michigan, Indiana, Canada or Tennessee. The time spent on these lakes fishing, learning to ski and scuba diving are some my fondest memories.
In 2008, my family and I were given the opportunity to move to Ottawa and become part of the history and charm of Starved Rock Country area. I was certain I would miss the lake boating I was used to in Michigan.
Flash forward nearly 4 years…I haven’t been on a lake since my Michigan departure and have come to realize the true differences and the importance of The River.
In the past 4 years, I have met boaters from all parts of the US, Canada and Europe, including two portly gentlemen in Speedos from Germany With the exception of Lake Michigan the lakes I mentioned above will only allow a few minutes of boating until you see the same scene again. The same docks and cottages, the same points of interest – only to go around again and again, with the shorelines never really changing but only the increasing amount of traffic that prohibits good skiing and tubing, an activity my family enjoys doing. But boredom doesn’t come easy on The River, the terrain continuously changes, the vegetation and wildlife migrate with the seasons, new development continues and there are always little inlets and stops along the way to discover.
I am a little spoiled, as our home is situated on the Illinois south bluff area that overlooks the confluence of the Fox and Illinois Rivers. I have been amazed at the amount of traffic (both pleasure and commercial) and the importance of the river system to economy, watershed and surrounding natural resources. Plus I have a new found appreciation for the commerce generated on the river through barge traffic, ship yards, granary and more.
From a historical view, the local river system has transported warships, submarines, presidents, famous writers and has been the place where many battles have been fought. The river is so rich in a history that continues to be made-every day, every year. Commerce continues as consumer goods, crops and fuel are loaded and shipped all over the world. As the saying goes ‘you just keep flowing and you never know what may be around the next bend.’
And to answer your question, No, the Rivers aren’t as clear as lakes because they have a sand and silt base versus a rock base. But, yet the rivers are cleaner than they used to be. Laws have been passed to keep harmful chemicals out of the river system and organizations now exist to protect the integrity of the river and its wildlife. The River does rise and fall and based on the fluctuation the river keeps things circulating. The boating and skiing is GREAT and we are known to catch the “Big Ones” of walleye, white bass, blue gill, large and small mouth bass, catfish and croppies to name a few. Parts of the river system support the vast waterfowl population on its yearly migration and provide sportsmen bounty year after year. If you have never witnessed the migratory white pelicans all huddled together on their journey you are truly missing a beautiful sight.
Lastly, I have found my boating season to be much longer on the River; some of our best photos are from the water looking back at the fall foliage.
In closing, Yes, I will always miss the lakes and look forward to future visits. However my life on The River is exciting, fun and has yet to disappoint or limit my curiosity. The rivers are the arteries to our homes and serve as life support to all that we have. You cannot get to Europe from a small lake in Michigan, and you cannot send world class sand to Mobile bay from a lake in Canada. On The River you can boat, and ski, fish and hunt and travel many miles without seeing the same scenery. The River is a wonderful thing.
Illinois uses the tag line; “Mile after Magnificent Mile”, and I say The River is “Mile after Adventurous Mile!” See you soon at the Harbor!