Stream of kayakers grows for outings

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Dennis Hines | June 15, 2016

SOUTH BELOIT — Terry Meyers discovered his love for kayaking after participating in several paddle trips organized by Nature at the Confluence.

“After the first couple of trips, I bought my own kayak,” Meyers of Beloit said. “(The paddle trips) are an opportunity if you're interested in it to rent a kayak. It's a nice way to get introduced to it.”

Other residents will have the opportunity to discover the art of kayaking, because the Nature at the Confluence will host the Rock River Fur Traders Run from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 18. The paddle trip will begin at the confluence, located near Dickop Street in South Beloit, and will travel to the Macktown Forest Preserve in Rockton.

The confluence includes the area where the Rock River and Turtle Creek District meet in South Beloit.

“(The trip) follows the route that fur traders used along the Rock River,” said Therese Oldenburg, program coordinator for Nature at the Confluence.

Meyers said the trip allows people to explore the route that fur traders used, and view different types of wildlife.

“It's a peaceful trip down the river,” Meyers said. “You see a lot of wildlife. You see eagles. You see evidence of beavers. You see blue herons. You see the community from a different view. You would never know the Turtle Creek was in South Beloit. You get to see what it might have been like when the settlers came through. (Paddling) was their mode of transportation and you get to see what it might have been like for them.”

Oldenburg said she hosted several paddle trips last year, which were well attended.

“I ran them last year and people were excited,” Oldenburg said. “This area does not have a lot of places where people can rent a kayak. We had a lot of people come from outside the area. For a lot of people, it was the first time being on a paddle trip.”

Meyers said he learned about the paddle trips through Oldenburg's Facebook page.

“I'm friends with Therese Oldenburg on Facebook,” Meyers said. “She put information about the paddle trips on her Facebook page, and that was my first contact on it.”

Meyers said, besides participating in the confluence paddle trips, he has gone kayaking in other areas of the state.

“I like to kayak different sections of Turtle Creek. I've gone down from Delavan to the confluence in South Beloit. I would like to do some kayaking on the Sugar River,” Meyers said. “There's several sites throughout the state that I've heard people talk about. There's some other areas that are on my bucket list.”

Meyers said kayaking is an enjoyable activity.

“It's a relaxing day. You get out on the water, and it's nice and peaceful,” Meyers said. “You get away from the sounds of traffic. You get to take in the wildlife and hear the call of an eagle. It's just a nice way to get away from everything. You get to meet new friends and get to form different groups. You get to see people you've never met before.”

New plan in works for nature center

Beloit 2020 has been working on developing the Nature at the Confluence for several years. However, a portion of the project has been delayed, according to Therese Oldenburg, program coordinator for Nature at the Confluence.

The group purchased the former Dahlman Muffler Shop, 306 Dickop St., in 2013 to convert the building into a nature and learning center. Oldenburg said the group recently learned that renovating the building would be too costly.

“It was cost prohibitive to bring the building up to code,” Oldenburg said. “We're back to the drawing board. We have to build a new building, so that's the hold-up. We will have a better product. It will just set us back a little bit.”

Oldenburg said she is not certain when the nature center would be completed, but the project is set to begin in the near future.

“We were hoping to have a grand opening (for the nature center) this month, but we will be under construction this summer,” Oldenburg said. “Right now, we don't want to schedule too many programs. We will still have our paddle trips. Other than that, we plan to develop relationships with Stateline partners for programs.”

Other portions of the confluence have been worked on, including developing prairie areas and gardens.

“Most of it will be prairie restoration,” Oldenburg said. “We've started to bring in some fill. We have a truckload of fill that will be dumped on the area this year. We have foundry sand that we will put in. We're doing a lot of work to improve the soil.”

Oldenburg said several volunteers have helped to clean up the area and remove invasive species.

“There's a lot of things that have been done (at the confluence),” Oldenburg said. “We just don't have a physical location yet.”

Oldenburg said she recently attended a conference in Minnesota to learn about programs that could be developed at the confluence.

The confluence area was a Ho-Chunk village in the early 1800s called Ke-Chunk, which means “turtle village.”

“We learned ways to engage children and families and the benefits to the community and the schools,” Oldenburg said. “I will apply what I learned at the conference to help make a difference in the community.”

--Dennis Hines

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