Monday, July 13, 2009

Kenosha's Pike River

This past weekend, the weather was perfect – warm sunshine, clear skies and cooling lake breezes. In recent days, I finally have managed to get in a few bike rides along some of our local bike paths. One of my favorite routes takes me north from my house along the harbor, across Simmons Island, along the lake to Carthage College. One day last week, I stopped at the bridge at the mouth of the Pike River and took a few pictures. It was about 9 AM and there were only a few people on the beach but several seagulls were relaxing in the sun. One gull did not pay attention to the sign that said Danger. No Swimming. No Wading. Swift Currents.

The Pike River is only one of many rivers in the Great Lakes Watershed, and a small one at that. It winds its way through Kenosha Country before spilling into Lake Michigan at this scenic spot. I am told it is not a good river for paddling but there are trails along its bank that are good for hiking.

As I ride by the place where the Pike empties into Lake Michigan, I am aware of its role and the role of the other water components in this ecosystem – wetlands, creeks, streams, and rivers. I know many of the larger rivers, like the Cuyahoga, Detroit, and the Niagara Rivers, have been defined for many by their pollution. I hear Cuyahoga River and I remember that the river that was so polluted it actually caught fire. Fortunately, many of these rivers have been cleaned up and although not perfect, they are much better than they were a generation ago.

I wanted to learn a little more about the Pike River so I clicked and scrolled my way through some of my bookmarked websites. What I learned is that the US Geological Survey lets me monitor daily streamflow conditions. On the Lake Michigan Angler site, I could find out what kind of fishing is allowed there as well as what kind of fish at different times of the year and even recipes for cooking those fish.

I also found a report on Healthy Harbors, Restored Rivers: A Community Guide to Cleaning Up Our Waterways. This document, put out by the Sierra Club in 2001, is not for the faint of heart. It is a 70 page in-depth look at cleaning up our water waterways and explores everything from causes of pollution to methods of cleanup. Remember the harbor dredging pictures I posted a week or so ago? The same type of dredging is done to clean up rivers. The report not only tells me what kind of equipment can be used for dredging (mechanical, hydraulic or hybrid), it provides diagrams and pictures and tells me what to do with the sediment that is dredged up. All this is way more than this casual observer wants to know!

The River Alliance of Wisconsin site told me that everyone deserves healthy rivers, and what we can do to preserve and restore them. When I did a search on their website for the Pike River, I also learned there is more than one Pike River in Wisconsin – according to them the Pike River is in Marinette County. Apparently, that Pike River is better for paddling than Kenosha’s Pike River –usually, anyway, but not this year. In June, the Second Annual Paddle the Pike was cancelled due to low water levels. Maybe participants should have come down and hiked the banks of our Pike River, or at least taken a bike ride over a few of its bridges. I am sure they would have enjoyed the views from this part of the watershed.

By the way, if you click to enlarge the middle picture looking back at the bridge, notice the tall white structure protruding out above the trees. I suppose if you have to make a phone call, you might be glad it's there, but it otherwise you have to admit, it does nothing for the scenery.


Anonymous said...

Hi! I live off the Pike (Hwy E) and I am an avid, local kayaker. My friends and I paddle the Pike weekly (when water levels allow) and I also organize and run a local river clean-up of the Pike held in the fall. My clean-up is run through American Rivers Organization and will be held on October 24th this year. Email me at if you are interested in lending a hand!

FYI... the Pike is a very nice paddle, but due to the nature of its muddy banks and quick fill/ empty behavior, strainers and portages are the norm. On big rains the Pike will get up over 1000 cfs and you can paddle through the entire Parkside portion. Normal good days (60- 250 cfs), and the Pike in my opinion has the best stretch of paddling in the county. Put in at Hwy A, west of 30th and take out at Hwy A, east of 22nd. Lots of fun riffles and a nice rapid section through the country club! If the time allows, we often take it all the way to my house at Hwy E. You can also paddle Hwy E to the Lake.

Like I mentioned before, there are frequently down trees and other obstacles, so you have to be willing to make a couple portages, but usually only 1 or 2 per reach of river!



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