Sangamon Rx

October is fast approaching, and we all know what that means.

Required “Obamacare” sign up of course!

And with all the hubbub and debate surrounding required health insurance, I have my own healthcare prescription.

Yes, we’ve all heard some of the scary statistics regarding our health:

  • Fewer than 20% of adults achieve the recommended minimum of 150 minutes per week of regular physical activity.
  • One in three American adults is obese – and almost one in five children.
  • 25% of all adults are completely sedentary.
  • Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are leading contributors to the astonishing rise in chronic disease in America – including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, amputation, and blindness among American adults.
  • Seven out of 10 deaths among Americans each year result from chronic diseases.
  • After years of increasing lifespan, this may be the first generation of America’s children that have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

But alas, despite the dire implications, this problem, brought on in many cases by personal lifestyle choices, can be changed by lifestyle choices. So relax, there may be no need for sophisticated medical interventions and expensive prescription drugs.

Even healthcare coverage provided by “Obamacare” (or whatever) can be rendered significantly less significant.

I was reading in Parks and Recreation magazine about a program called Parks Rx, where physicians in Washington DC, rather than prescribing traditional medicine for the maladies affecting their patients, are prescribing parks!

Which brings me to Sangamon Rx and the curative effects of getting out there on the Sangamon River!

To cure your sedentary lifestyle and start adding up your 150 minutes of physical activity per week, I’d prescribe one Sangamon River.

To get yourself canoeing or kayaking, you can access the Sangamon River at the Sangamon River Forest Preserve. Just walk due west from the parking lot and you’ll hit the Sangamon River where it is joined by the Wildcat Slough.

About 2 miles downriver, you can either take out or put in at the Hazen Bridge where the Sangamon River crosses under County Road 2600 North. And be sure you stay a while and check out the changes to the bridge deck being completed by the volunteers of the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy.

The only problem with the Hazen Bridge is a serious lack of parking, so you’ll have to be dropped off or picked up by some significant other (who doesn’t mind being your shuttle service).

Next stop is about 5 miles downriver at Lake of the Woods. The best spot to access the river is at the end of the road that leads to the Izaak Walton cabin at the spillway. There is a nice parking area and pretty good, if a bit tricky, river access there for put in or take out.

About 2 miles downriver from there is Barber Park. While river access is still pretty much in development, you can access the river there. Just push your way down along and under the 150 bridge from the bike path terminus circle.

You can park your car in the Barber lot, but it’s a long walk. Soon, if the Village of Mahomet gets a grant they’ve applied for, there will be a nifty new concrete walkway that will complete the bike path up to the parking lot.

Next is the bridge at Division Street and IL 47, with good public parking at the Sangamon River Greenway at the northeast side of the bridge. And a much shorter walk down under the bridge to the river.

Access is tricky over the rip-rap rocks by the river, so be careful.

You can also access the river along the north and west edge of Riverbend park. Although it’s a good walk, the best spot may be due north from the parking lot along the road about a half mile, then down to the left and through the woods. There is a nice gravel bar there for river access.

For more information on canoe or kayak access, see

Another option to cure your sedentary lifestyle that doesn’t involve shuttling watercraft around and lugging them from parking lots to the river is just taking a walk along the Sangamon.

As for me, the best walking trail along the river is at the Sangamon River Forest Preserve on CR 600E heading toward Fisher. Heading west from the parking lot, just keep going on beyond Wildcat slough for a long walk along the banks of the river with some very nice views, a few benches to do a little meditation, and even some new interpretive signage along the way to stimulate your mind.

From there the trail goes upland and into some very nice oak savannah and prairie. It’s a beautiful and peaceful spot to stretch your legs, and with a well-marked trail system, you can put together a walk at whatever length you want.

Many people don’t know that Mahomet Parks and Rec is now mowing a very nice walking path through the forest edge down by the river at Barber Park. The trail goes all the way to a small drainage, and you can even go on beyond that to explore some fascinating hilly terrain (for Mahomet) that also belongs to the Village.

And also people are generally less aware of the Sangamon Greenway. Just park in that parking lot I mentioned and set out south into the woods to the river.

Though the trail isn’t marked, you can follow along the river through the woods to the east all the way to the railroad trestle. You can come back through the mown prairie and spot a few bluebirds around the USRC’s nesting box project. It’s a very nice and little-used public area for local residents to explore the outdoors!

And in Barber Park and at the Greenway, plans are coming together for a new walking path to someday connect the two with a bridge spanning the Sangamon River. Stay tuned to NFTR for more details on that as they unfold.

So there you have it, lots of places to get your Sangamon Rx filled.

And if that’s not enough to encourage you, then be aware of these upcoming events:

It’s Our River Day Sangamon River Clean Up, this Saturday, September 21. But you really need to contact me, Scott, on Thursday the 19th if you’re interested. See the USRC website for details:

And all this week, from the 21st to the 29th is “Take a Child Outside” week with many activities hosted by the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, including a talk by Richard Louv, author of the cleverly titled “No Child Left Inside: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder”. Details at:

And Saturday, September 28 is National Public Lands Day where we should all get out and celebrate all of these various public spaces tailor-made to cure what ails you.

So my prescription for your health (after being sure your insurance coverage is in order) is to take one Sangamon River.

Then call me in the morning and let me know how much better you feel.

Appeared as Notes from  the  River, Mahomet Citizen, September 19, 2013 by Scott Hays

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