Up a Creek? There’s plenty of paddles near by

By Paul Wood

Champaign County Forest Preserve District

The district offers access to the Sangamon River at Lake of the Woods in Mahomet and River Bend Forest Preserve south of Mahomet, as well as the Salt Fork near Homer Lake.

"There is no canoe launch within the Middle Fork River Preserve. But people do canoe the river as there are some good spots to put in on private lands. But the river depth is highly variable depending on the amount of rain we get, so the quality of the trip can fluctuate in kind," said Mary Ellen Wuellner, the district's deputy executive director.

Marketing manager Lisa Sprinkle said rentals of pedal boats, kayaks and rowboats are available through Labor Day Weekend at Lake of the Woods.

Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The cost is $6 per half-hour. The boat peninsula is located at 101 N. Lake of the Woods Road, at the intersection of Tin Cup Road and Lake of the Woods Road.

On July 15, the district offers Canoeing For Beginners lessons at Walnut Hill Boat Launch in Homer Lake Forest Preserve.

There are classes from 9 to 11 a.m. or 1 to 3 p.m.

After learning the basics of canoeing and water safety, there's a canoe caravan around Homer Lake. All equipment will be provided; water and sunscreen is recommended.

The minimum age to participate is 8 years old; an adult must accompany children under 18.

The class costs $8 per person, or $4 if you bring your own canoe. Space is limited, said Chelsey Walsh, the public program specialist.

You can reserve a spot at, or by calling 217-896-2455 or emailing