Date: April 23, 2022; Length: 8 miles; Duration: 3 hours
Planning: The Pecatonica River starts in southwestern Wisconsin and flows southeast into Illinois before merging with the Rock River. Mike Svob has three successive trips of the Pecatonica totaling 32 miles in Illinois, along with the one 8-mile section of Calamine – Darlington that I chose to use for my trip.
Shuttle: The main attraction to this section of the Pecatonica river was the trail that ran alongside and connected access points, making for an ideal hiking shuttle. The trail was more like a smaller dirt gravel road, which several UTVs and dirt bikes frequented while we hiked our six miles of it in just under two hours.
Paddling: The river had a decent current at times for having such a flat gradient, which could have just been a result of the strong winds. These winds were a pain to paddle into for some longer straight stretches, but happened to generate some fun riffles as well. The river had some other positive paddling qualities, with its narrow width, winding nature, and no scraping issues. The real paddling issues came when I couldn’t paddle due to about ten different deadfall blockages. Some were partial blockages with small but clear openings to paddle through while others were more congested, complex to bypass, and required hands on branch moving and pushing or hoisting over partially submerged logs.
Observations: The river had a bland brown color and lack of clarity, and of course all of the scattered trees or deadfall in the water at various times. Mud banks and scattered trees were the immediate surroundings from here, with some more open areas of farm land and the fairly popular trail running alongside common sights and sounds of UTVs and dirt bikes going by. On a more natural note, we spotted pairs of geese a handful of times, some ducks, a few ruffed grouse, and one big snapping turtle entering the river.
Reflections: This section of the Pecatonica River is nothing too special. The trail connecting the 8-mile stretch is the most appealing aspect, with the narrow and winding river my favorite paddling characteristics of it. You can get some solitude with the lack of bridges, but the near off trail is commonly used by UTVs and others and the natural surroundings are pretty bare aside from some scattered trees. Who can forget the various deadfall blockages to try and pass around or squeeze through. That is the main thing to be prepared for if planning to paddle this section of the Pecatonica.