Dam-less Des Plaines River Welcomes 60th Annual Marathon


On Sunday, May 21, more than 700 paddlers from 13 states will race from Libertyville, Illinois, to Mount Prospect, Illinois, in what has become the second-oldest continual canoe race in the United States.

And for the first time in 60 years, there will be no portages, as all of the dams have been removed from this section of the Des Plaines River.

Founded in 1958 by Ralph Frese, the race starts at 8 a.m. sharp and paddlers will finish at Dam #2 in Mt. Prospect. Frese is the owner of the Chicagoland Canoe Base and is often referred to as “Mr. Canoe.”

There are two event courses: the Marathon is 18.5 miles on the beautiful and historic Des Plaines River in northern Illinois; with a shorter, 5.25 mile Mini-thon for less experienced paddlers.

More than 20 classes accommodate different paddling disciplines and paddlers of all ages and capabilities, including stand-up paddleboards (SUP). Everyone is welcome to participate…first time participants, repeat paddlers, and serious competitors can all enjoy the excitement, challenge, and camaraderie that this historic event provides.

Showcase an incredible natural environment within a major urban setting, Frese originally founded the race as an activity for Boy Scouts, for whom he built more than 500 fiberglass canoes. The longest running canoe competitive and citizens’ paddling event in the U.S. is held each year on the Sunday before Memorial Day.

All participants receive an embroidered patch; first place receives a metal statue of the Voyageur, the event symbol. There are also medals for 2nd and 3rd place finishers. Event t-shirts, free shuttle buses for participants, food vendors and musical entertainment at the take-out are all on the docket.

The Des Plaines River Association, the Forest Preserves of Cook County and the
Lake County Forest Preserves are all helping support the event.

Visit www.canoemarathon.com for more information or call (847) 604-2445.