If you love the serene sights and sounds of nature and have an appetite for water activities, come to Morris and experience an adventure.
Entering it’s second year of business, Kayak Morris offers unique kayak and canoe tours on the Illinois and Mazon Rivers and the Illinois & Michigan Canal.
Janee Matteson, owner of Kayak Morris, said float trips are new for 2011.
Float trips are a one hour ride on a pontoon boat upstream the Illinois River and then you float/paddle back eight miles downstream to the kayak facility. This takes about three to five hours.
Those who want a longer trip of four to six hours can float or paddle 10 miles downstream from the kayak facility and then get shuttled back on the pontoon boat.
During these trips, Matteson said people can paddle or float as much as they want. Some pack a a lunch and bring their fishing gear.
Currently, these tours are only offered on Sundays.
Bikers renting the mountain/hybrid bikes can catch the pontoon ride when they come back from their 20-mile round trip to Seneca or a 10-mile trip to and from the Aux Sable Lock #8.
Matteson said her customers are guaranteed to have a comfortable bike ride.
“There are no knobby wheels, there’s full suspension, the handlebars are upright and there is a big cushy seat,” Matteson said. “These bikes are good on the crushed limestone trails.”
Canoe and kayak (single and tandem) tours are available to individuals and are great for family outings, Matteson said. The tours run between two to three hours and any age range can participate. Life jackets for 30 pounds and up and safety instructions and briefing on break turning and paddling are included in the tour, Matteson said.
“The river is no different than the roadway,” Matteson said. “You stay in the shallow area, not in the middle of the river. You go inland to lake areas.”
During some tours, Matteson said canoes and kayaks can be tied together until a boater is comfortable in paddling on his or her own.
“It’s like a training wheel,” Matteson said. “Kayaks usually get a bad rap, however canoes are more tippy. “There is a lower set of gravity in the kayak.”
Kids on the tour will get a pail and shovel, bubbles or in warmer weather, a water cannon. Matteson said the toys help ease the kids in riding in the canoes or kayaks. She will even bring out a remote control boat that she will whizz by the kids. As they get used to paddling, they have to try to avoid hitting the toy boat.
Nature and Wildlife
During group and self-guided tours, boaters can take in nature and wildlife.
According to Matteson, there is a Blue Heron Rookery off the Mazon River. These birds have two to three foot nests among the trees. Routinely, boaters will see kingfishers and red-tail hawks, she said.
“Recently on a tour on the Illinois River, we saw a both a male and female Baltimore Oriole,” Matteson said. “The male has a bright, intense neon orange body. On the I&M Canal we see a lot of the state reptile, a painted box turtle, as well as the Northern water snake.”
A local boy scout troop took a tour in May and discovered a shortnose gar washed up on shore. This fish has sharp teeth and a long stout and is very prehistoric looking.
This is not uncommon, since the state fossil; a Tulley Monster is very indigenous to the Mazon River, Matteson said.
The stand-up paddle boat is the latest recreational activity offered through Kayak Morris and it has health benefits.
This paddle boat is a 12-foot surfboard and is maneuvered by standing and paddling with a long paddle. The craze began in Hawaii in the 60s. It was the way islanders would get around to the different islands. The fad eventually died off and was resurrected 10 years ago in Hawaii and California. It spread to the coastal states.
“It’s a good stress reliever,”Matteson said. “It helps with balance, coordination and stabilization.”
Kayak Morris has a 250-member paddling club. The club arranges meeting times to head to the waters. Members who own a boat can come on the guided tours for free.
More information, including prices for tours and rentals can be found at the company's Web site.