Lazy days floating down the river and basking in nature’s beauty are lovely to experience at Kickapoo Adventures
Eager to find somewhere to cool off in water this summer, we decided to try tubing at Kickapoo State Recreation Area for the first time. I can’t believe that we’ve lived in Champaign-Urbana for 17 years and we had never been tubing before. Our family had previously paddle boarded and kayaked at Kickapoo but did not know the fun that could be had with a float trip down Middle Fork of the Vermilion River.
Effective May 29, 2020, all Illinois state parks, fish and wildlife areas and recreational areas, as well as select historic sites, will be open to the public. Camping and concessions will reopen and normal park hours will resume. Effective June 26 shelters, playgrounds and beaches will be open; pools will remain closed. Historic sites which do not have outdoor acreage will remain closed until further notice. For the most up-to-date information on the reopening of IDNR sites and their operations during the pandemic, be sure to research your specific destination and check the IDNR website as well.
Our party made our arrangements online to expedite the process once we arrived. Guests are actually encouraged to reserve their spots online at this time due to protocols in place for social distancing. Adults were required to sign a release for themselves and their minor children to participate in the trip; however, this was all able to be completed online ahead of time. Additionally, since we had kids in our group, we rented a special cooler float that allowed our full-size cooler to float down the river with us. We made sure to bring ice to keep our drinks and snacks cool on the trip. We had all ordered water shoes beforehand and were appreciative of having these for walking through the water.
The drive to Oakwood, where Kickapoo State Recreation Area is located, was about 30 minutes from Champaign-Urbana. Kickapoo Landing houses the rental area as well as a snack shop. This is where we checked in with staff and were given our tubes and life jackets.
We waited briefly for a large bus that drove us to the start of our journey. For our first tubing experience, we decided to start with a shorter trip to make sure that everyone enjoyed themselves. We started with the Sportsman Lake. The entire trip took us roughly two hours to complete, but we could have made it shorter with fewer stops along the way. We stopped a few times to play on the sandbars or to have a snack, but we enjoyed admiring the beauty of the cliffs and tall trees. The water level was just about perfect the day that we went, but we did have to be on watch for rocks or branches under the water’s surface.
Our group did find that the cooler float tended to weigh us down a bit, but it was a very nice convenience to have. The adults took turns holding the cooler float and laughing at ourselves when it got us stuck in a new tree branch or other rock formation.
On our next trip tubing, we plan to pack a lunch and take on the combination float trip because we all had so much fun. The scenery along the way was beautiful, serene, and relaxing. It is really hard to believe that such serene nature is just a short drive from Champaign-Urbana. We purposefully chose the last departure time of the day so that we could take our time and also so that the full sun might be toned down a bit for our trip.
Our shuttle guide had made sure to tell us that since we were only completing one leg of the tour, we would get out right before the bridge and we should not go under any bridges on that float trip. There was a faint stop sign visible to notify us that it was time to get out, but the bridge made the ending of the trip that much more noticeable. The kids all enjoyed a very small waterfall near the exit of the float trip, so as the adults began the process of removing the tubes and accessories from the water, the kids played in the small waterfall instead.
Another reason that we planned our float trip for the last departure option for the day was so that we could make a pit stop at The Pink Pig in Ogden. We enjoyed eating outside on the patio, munching on pulled pork nachos and a cranberry Moscow mule (because it’s pink, of course). The kids enjoyed pretzels, nachos, cotton candy and more.
We are eagerly awaiting our return trip to tackle Pond 6 and the combination float trip, but most importantly, we are looking forward to returning to a day trip that our entire family enjoyed without complaint. The grown-ups appreciated the relaxation and scenery while the kids reveled in the splashing, playing, and exploring. There truly was something for everyone on this trip.
At the time of this article, a float trip on the Sportsman Classic or Pond 6 Trail was $12 for adults and $8 for children. Completing both float trips was $20 for adults and $13 for children. Note: the Pond 6 and combination trips only run when the water level is under 2 feet. If you are interested in knowing more about water levels in order to plan your trip, check here.
For more information about activities to experience at Kickapoo State Recreation Area, visit here.
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