It’s Sangamon Season

For everything, there is a season – King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 3:1

It’s Memorial Day Weekend!

Or, technically speaking, by the time you read this, it was.

But that’s OK, because as important as Memorial Day is for remembering those who fought to defend our land, our rights, and our free press, such as the Mahomet Citizen, it’s also important since it’s the beginning of Sangamon Season!

Sangamon Season brings float trips, Riverwatch river monitoring, mussel surveys, river workdays and cleanups, and just more fun in, on and around our Sangamon River.

This weekend, several of us from the USRC were out monitoring Crooked Creek for invertebrates as part of Riverwatch, a program that occupies several summer weekdays in May and June. We traipse around in the creek and set up a ‘field lab’ to collect the macro-invertebrate samples that we’ll identify in the Riverwatch Lab later in August. As usual, Crooked Creek, that runs through my backyard, typically the first creek we monitor, tested very poorly. And I was so hopeful.

But that’s how it goes during Sangamon Season.

And this weekend I also went out for my solo river triathlon challenge. The first leg takes place by driving my red ’93 GMC pickup down to Lake of the Woods (downriver from our place), with my bike in the back. Then I hop on my bike and ride back to my house during the second leg.

Then after a quick change from bike shorts and helmet to swim trunks and baseball cap, I begin the third leg by throwing my kayak in the river and head downriver to Lake of the Woods and to my waiting pickup truck, where I throw the kayak in and drive back home. So, technically that’s 4 legs, but hey most triathlons don’t include any legs driving pickups anyway.

That’s how it goes during Sangamon Season.

I mean, sure you could hit the road for vacation this summer (and you should!), but when you’re near home for those summer weekends wondering what to do, think Sangamon Season.

Sangamon Season on our very own Sangamon River, brings some of the finest canoeing in our area. You’d be amazed at how paddling through the Central Illinois forest feels.

On the twists and turns of the Sangamon through the shaded forests, you’ll feel miles away from the surrounding wide open land of the square where compass points guide the roadways, 90 degrees measures the turns, and one mile demarcates the distance. Miles away.

And that’s how it goes during Sangamon Season.

Sangamon Season for the USRC will consist of several more float trips, typically on the first Sunday and third Saturday from June through September or October, and anyone reading this column is free to join in. I’ll be hosting the next trip on June 11, which is already off-schedule, but hey…

That’s how it goes during Sangamon Season.


And in September, we’ll be cleaning the river, and on every trip we pick up trash. We’ll also work to clear paths for canoes through the Sangamon’s log jams. This can be some of the hardest and wettest and most challenging work we do along the river. But it’s all in our day’s volunteering for our cleanup crew.

That’s how it goes during Sangamon Season.

Don’t want to join the USRC? That’s fine, go to the USRC website for information on public access points to the river, which are still “under development” up and down the river. Sometimes access points require traversing muddy banks or even involve an accidental slip in the river. But don’t fret:

That’s how it goes during Sangamon Season.

And there will be plenty of opportunities to become a Citizen Scientist with the USRC’s Riverwatch program. Riverwatch continues Sunday June 12 with two of the Sangamon’s tributaries, Pancake Slough and Wildcat Slough, both north of Mahomet. And after that, at the end of June the USRC will monitor four Riverwatch sites along the Sangamon River.

And if that’s not enough, in August and September, you can help out with the USRC’s mussel surveys.

This is where volunteers crawl around down in the Sangamon on hands and knees scouring the sandy, gravelly, bottom to find the Sangamon’s mussels. We typically find several hundred mussels in over a dozen varieties. We identify and count them, have them pose for photographs, then we put them back to rest in the river, pretty much where we found them.

That’s how it goes during Sangamon Season.

In August, Sangamon Season brings Riverfest in Mahomet and along with USRC’s Annual Sangamon River Duck Race, now in its seventh year! The ducks will come out on Saturday afternoon, get dropped off the bicycle bridge, race down the river, the winners will walk away with their fabulous prizes (including $500 or a new kayak, or many others), and the ducks will go away for another year.

And that’s how it goes during Sangamon Season.

And for me, Sangamon Season brings time in the river, too. After hot sweaty days working in the yard, there’s nothing quite like a dip in the river. Or we’ll anchor air mattress with half-concrete blocks and float out on the river just soaking up the sun.

Ask anyone that’s lived here long enough and they’re sure to tell you stories. The river stays cool and fresh all summer long.

Later in the summer, when the river gets low we carry our lawn chairs out onto the sand bar and sit with our toes in the river, cooling off, maybe having a beer and enjoying the dog days of summer.

And that’s how it goes during Sangamon Season.

Appeared as Notes from the River, June 16, 2016

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