Another beautiful weekend of kayaking


Towhead supporting grasses and purple loosestrife.

Sunday my friend Kim took me out to the Skokie Lagoons, and Monday I took Rich out with me. (When you are married to a stagehand, Monday is a weekend day.)

The Lagoons run for miles up along the western edge of Chicago’s North Shore. They’re man-made, created when masses of soil were removed and used to fill in all the wetlands that once stood where we now have expensive suburbs. The water moves slowly, fed by many springs and a few minor creeks. At its best it’s maybe two feet deep, full of duck weed, greenish, muddy, and home to a skillion creatures. You can boat there, or fish there, but not swim. Ugh. Nobody ice skates there to my knowledge, either, but there’s always some brave soul who’s willing to cross-country ski across iffy snow-covered ice in winter. They may even ice-fish.

I never seem to get pictures of all the beauty. This is partly because I’m in a boat and I’m afraid to drop my camera in the water. But really it’s because I can absorb the beauty, or I can photograph the beauty, but apparently I can’t multitask the beauty.

That said, here are some pix.

Kim Hirschmann kayaking

Kim, to whom I can never be sufficiently grateful for introducing me to kayaking.

Kim and I portaged over a little dam and kayaked up from Tower Road to the Botanic Garden. We saw at least a dozen great blue herons, and several great egrets, black-crowned night herons, and kingfishers. Also, some kind of swimming rodent that dove under a tree root on the bank and didn’t come up—I thought of Ratty in Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows, snug in his water’s-edge sitting room—and a shy white-tail deer that came to drink at the lagoon and bounced off into the woods as we paddled by.

The kingfishers were very active, swooping over the silent lagoons, laughing their laugh. They look like thug versions of a blue-jay—no neck and a giant head.


Like paddling through pudding.

We also saw, sadly, much evidence of the over-fertilizing going on at the Botanic Garden. Downstream of the Garden, the algae blooms, an inescapable telltale.

The prevailing wind blows it south, so that watery cul-de-sacs fill up with the stuff, killing the other aquatic plant life under it and interfering with all the other creatures that live in and around the Lagoons.

Kayaking through it is a bit like paddling through pudding. Or peanut butter. Or oobleck.

The vale of oobleck

The vale of oobleck

Monday, Rich and I saw, with the first twenty minutes, a bald eagle; two flocks of double-crested cormorants; random Canada geese, black ducks, and mallards; great blue herons; two great egrets; several black-crowned night herons; a green heron; a few turtles; and a muskrat eating what looked to be a frog. Then we bunkered ourselves in a corner full of algae because we kept thinking there had to be another exit.

The five-inch depth of the algae should have tipped us off that there was no light at the end of this chartreuse-green tunnel. Took forever to get out of there. We pooted around only another half hour but it was glorious all the same.

Now we’re talking about kayaking regularly. Renting isn’t expensive, but it ain’t cheap either.

Cormorants sitting chicky.

Cormorants sitting chicky.

If we bought kayaks, we’d have to find a way to put them on top of our cars, which have roof racks but are too tall for either of us shorties to achieve this feat without scaffolding. Growing five inches apiece would do it.

My friend Kim has an inflatable, but it often leaks.

She said she once saw a guy with what looked like an origami kayak that folded up small, but we haven’t located that one on the interwebs yet.

I was actually looking for a new sport. One, hopefully, that doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. This is a great warm-weather activity. And oh the beauty.



Another beautiful weekend of kayaking — 3 Comments

  1. Jen, thanks for the armchair tour. What a wealth of wildlife close to the city! Sadly, we have that algae problem here in Bellingham, in Lake Padden that I used to swim in as a girl, when it was beautifully clear. Then they put in a golf course adjacent, and all the fertilizer has ruined the lake. But those rich golfers apparently need their green green grass.