July 25, 2008
A New Perspective: Kayaking the Root River
You haven't seen Racine like this.
My wife and I headed out on the Root River Thursday thanks to the Root River REC Center opened this spring. We rented a tandem kayak - the first hour is free on Thursdays - and paddled upstream to the W. 6th Street bridge.
Throughout the trip, Marie and I kept wondering where we were. Instead of homes and streets, we saw prairie grasses and swallows. Instead of concrete and cars, we saw trees hanging off the shore. It was a real change in perspective.
It's also an important step in reclaiming the Root River from its industrial past. While the river was used as a dump for decades, it's slowly being reclaimed as a natural gem through the heart of the city.
The REC was started by a group led by UW-Parkside Professor John Skalbeck, who started a similar center down in Kenosha. Skalbeck received a grant to open the centers, and the board hired Ben Lehner to run the REC this summer.
Interest in the rentals - $7/hour on Fridays and Saturdays - seems to be increasing. About 20 people were waiting for kayaks and canoes when the REC opened at 4 pm on Thursday.
As for skill level, the river is calm and shallow and the kayaks are easy to paddle. We saw young teenagers out on the water in single kayaks having no trouble moving around.
One note of caution: You will get wet. If you bring a camera (and you'll want a camera), bring a case or plastic bag to keep it from getting soaked.
All in all, it's worth the effort to checkout the REC. You'll leave with a new perspective of Racine.