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Ralph Frese


Fox River Heroes


“Te canoe is the only trail through nature that leaves no trace of your passing,” says long-time canoeist, river-advocate and environmentalist Ralph Frese. “For years, I’ve been preaching the use of the canoe to explore the landscape.”


Growing up on Chicago’s northwest side, Ralph is a fourth generation blacksmith who also builds reproduction canoes and is the owner of Chicagoland Canoe Base, located at 4019 Narragansett in the same building where his father’s blacksmith shop once was located. He says his advocacy of Illinois’ rivers began 54 years ago, when he became involved with Scouting.


“I wanted to take the kids out exploring,” he says. Tat led to him beginning the Des Plaines River Canoe Race, and to becoming a vigilant advocate of improving the Chicago-area rivers. For his efforts, in 1994 he was named the first recipient of the American Canoe Association’s Legends of Paddling award, and he also has received awards from the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the EPA, and the Bureau of the Interior.


One of his favorite stretches of river is the Lower Fox, from Yorkville to Wedron. He’s worked to have it designated the Historic Fox Valley Canoe Trail, and for years gave lectures on all its special features.


“It’s one of the most beautiful stretches of river in Illinois,” says Ralph.


- 33 - Beautiful Bluffs


From Sheridan to Wedron . . . Many people say this is the most scenic part of the Fox River because of its high sandstone bluffs and abundant wildlife. Start at Yorkville’s boat launch, or at Silver Springs State Park a little further down the river, and stop and explore the many islands along the way. You can camp at Silver Springs State Park or Mallard Bend Campground (www.mallardbend.com), which is about 3-4 hours by canoe from Yorkville, and then finish your trip the next day. Ayres Landing in Wedron is another campground, and a good spot to take out. If you choose to go past Wedron and on to Ottawa and the Illinois River, be aware that there is a very large dam on the Fox River near Dayton (40-foot drop). Tere are no dams between Yorkville and Wedron.


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