The Graceful Fox Monday, Jun 11 2012 

Escaping to parks, lakes, and rivers close to home for even a few hours can feel like a mini vacation. One such destination is the Fox River of Illinois.

The Fox River emerges from southern Wisconsin, and meanders south through Illinois to Yorkville, and then veers west into the Illinois River. It was once the home of Potawatomi, Sac and Fox Native Americans.

The graceful Fox offers a tranquil setting for fishing, boating, hiking, biking, and picnicking. Most areas are lush with wildlife.

Fishing is particularly popular near the 15 major dams for walleye, northern pike, smallmouth and largemouth bass, channel catfish, sunfish, and carp. The most popular fishing areas are in Dayton, Yorkville, Montgomery, North Aurora, St. Charles, and McHenry.

Boaters can go through the lock at McHenry and proceed upstream into the Fox Chain O’Lakes, a popular recreational area. Only kayaks and canoes are allowed in lower regions.  You also can find gambling casinos on the river in Elgin and Aurora.

All waterways demand a level of respect and the Fox is no different. The areas surrounding the dams, especially below, are very dangerous. Escaping the clutches of the churning water in what is referred to as boils is nearly impossible. These areas are best avoided.

The Fox River is one of the 10 most endangered rivers in America due to its many dams and sediment. There are two other Fox Rivers in Southern Illinois.

©Mary K. Doyle

Up in the UP Friday, May 18 2012 

Lush woods, crystal clear waterways, and crisp, fresh air. If this appeals to you, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is calling your name.

The peninsula sits south of Lake Superior, North of Lake Michigan, and West of Lake Huron. It was first inhabited by Algonquin speaking people around AD 800. They later were joined by French fur trappers and then Scandinavians, Germans, English, and the Irish. Today’s Yoopers, as residents are often called, are a mix of friendly and practical people. They make their living mostly on logging, mining, and tourism although most mines closed by the 1920s.

The UP is a great destination for camping and outdoor sports. Wildlife is plentiful, so bring your binoculars, cameras, and fishing rod.

White tailed deer, moose, black bears, gray and red foxes, wolves, river otters, bobcats, coyotes, cougars, snapping and painted turtles, and a wide range of birds make the UP their home. You’ll also find walleye, northern pike, trout, salmon, bullhead catfish, and bass as well as clams, snails, and crayfish in abundance.

Local cuisine features pasties, which are meat turnovers; pannukaku – a cardamom flavored sweet bread; and hard slices of toasted cinnamon bread called korppu that are dunked in coffee. You’ll also find fresh Great Lakes fish, smoked fish, chokecherry and Thimbleberry jams, and pancakes with local maple syrup in addition to regular American food on the menu.

Every season in the UP is alive with some of America’s most stunning natural beauties. However, summers are short, so hurry if you plan to visit at this time of year.

©Mary K. Doyle

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