By Lee Butler, Friends of the Pecatonica River
January 30, 2018

Our Pecatonica River is beautiful here in Stephenson County. There is always something new and different to see or hear just around the bend. Fifteen years ago, I was invited to go on a canoe trip on the Pec. I was paddling in the bow of a canoe. I thought to myself, “This is beautiful. You can’t see this water trail from the front seat of a car!” The next spring, I went out and bought a kayak, even though my sciatica was flaring.

A couple of years later, I bought a second kayak so that I could share this newfound kayaking activity with a friend.

I’ve grown my kayak fleet over the years so I can invite more people to go kayaking and enjoy the pleasures of a good paddle. My program has mostly spread by word of mouth from kayaking friends and from those I’ve had the pleasure of paddling with. Being retired, I have the time. Promoting kayaking on our beautiful Pecatonica River is my little way of giving back to our community. It is a wonderful thing to see the joy and happiness in people during the trip and at the end of a kayak adventure down the Pec.

There are a few things you should know before heading down the Pec. The 120 rule applies to safe kayaking. Water temperature plus air temperature. If you tip over in temperatures below that, you could die from hypothermia. Always wear a life preserver.

Be aware that danger also lurks underneath the water. There are brush piles called strainers or sometimes a sweeper. Getting caught in one of these underwater hazards can tip you over and drag you under. There are also submerged objects in the water that can tip you over as well. A paddler has to constantly watch the water looking for water ripples that will give you a sign of a possible hazard.

You should never paddle during flood conditions when the water is high and running fast. Never paddle alone. There is a river gauge here in Freeport that gives the depth and current velocity. Use it to make sure you are going to be paddling in safe water.

We have many different lengths of kayak trips on our Pecatonica River near Freeport. It’s a half-mile from Tutty’s Crossing to the Hancock Marina, 3 miles from Tutty’s Crossing to the VFW and a 9-mile trip from Wes Block to the VFW.

There are many more combinations, all the way to 100 miles from Browntown, Wisconsin, to Macktown Forest Preserve near Rockton. There are convenient stops every 6-12 miles along the way.

The Friends of the Pecatonica River Foundation’s mission is to preserve, protect and foster the vitality of the Pecatonica River for the plant, animal and human communities within the Stephenson County watershed. We work to provide clean, safe, public access to the river.

There is a lot of Pecatonica River information at, which I encourage you to take a look at. I also hope to see you out there this year on our beautiful river. Drop me an email at if I can be of any assistance in getting you into a kayak and joining us on our many river adventures in 2018.

Journal Standard article link.