By Bethany Parker
I love a canoe. So I dragged my kids to Crystal Lake a few weeks ago when it was about 900 degrees in the shade and showed ‘em how it’s done.
My youngest had been clamoring all summer to canoe, so we took a short afternoon safari to the Crystal Lake Park Boathouse in Urbana to check out the canoes and paddleboats. The price was right – and because it was so hot, we were relatively alone on the lake. Boats are $8/hour and you have to be over the age of 16 to be in command of one so I was most disappointed to hear the young man running the boathouse say that all four of us would not be allowed in one canoe. We were on the verge of some minor unpleasantry when he relented and said we could give it a try, that the weight limit is more the issue than the number of people total in the boat. It worked fine – there was more than enough room for the four of us and we were nowhere near the weight limit.
Since they only had one size paddle, it was difficult for my younger two children to paddle, leaving the fun for just my 13-year-old and I. We lasted about a half hour and then headed back for a paddle boat. After that hard work, a tasty frozen treat from the boathouse sounded like a good idea, but they didn’t have prices or even their options listed so after a few moments of very intense haggling between my children and the man at the counter, we decided to head for the playground with our lunchbox. It was a short trip, but a decent introduction to boating and we saw a few turtles and ducks to make the trip worth talking about on the way home.
But have I said I love a canoe? So last weekend, I took myself out to Kickapoo State Recreation Area and rented a canoe, without the kids, for some more serious work. Paddling around on Clear Lake wasn’t any more expensive – $8/ hour for a lake rental, river trips cost more and details can be found on the Kickapoo website.
The boathouse here has canoes, kayaks, paddleboats and tubes for river trips. The lake is quite large and you can spend a good amount of time exploring the nooks and crannies, fishing from your boat or just skimming along and enjoying the shoreline. Life jackets are provided for all boaters, and recommended for everyone. They have two sizes of canoe paddles, so adults and youth can paddle more equitably. These still aren’t child sized paddles, but easier for an older grade school child to handle. You must have a drivers license or leave your car keys to rent a boat (in which case you aren’t concerned about dropping them overboard!). Even though the parking lot was nearly full the lake was far from crowded and we went long stretches of time without encountering other boaters. It was a pleasant and peaceful few hours on the water. We will definitely be back and I might even take the kids this time.
As we left, there was a local band setting up for some late afternoon tunes. The boathouse restaurant is open for hungry boaters on the weekends, and you can buy bait and basic fishing tackle and of course, the necessary fishing license at the boathouse as well.
Bethany Parker is a single mom to three boys that are growing up so fast it is hard to keep up.