Directions: Blackhawk Forest Preserve, owned by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, is located just south of Route 31, approximately 0.7 miles east of McLean Boulevard in South Elgin. Fabyan Forest Preserve, also owned by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, is located just east of Route 31 and just north of Fabyan Parkway in Geneva.
Notes: This trip has a difficult portage at St. Charles Dam (on the left side), and an easier one at Geneva Dam (also on the left). The river is often very shallow for several hundred feet downstream of the dams.
Please Be Advised: In midsummer, the water levels just below the Geneva Dam are very shallow, making the put-in difficult.
The first leg of this trip, from Blackhawk Forest Preserve to Ferson Creek Park, is ideal for larger group trips and use by commercial outfitters. The trip starts with a moderately strong current, but eventually opens up into a wide, quiet-water impoundment created by the dam in St. Charles. There is a dramatic view of the river valley, just after the trail turns south, about a mile into the trip. Heavy south winds and bright sun can be a challenge on this stretch, but these can generally be avoided by hugging the shoreline.
Ferson Creek flows into the river, on the right side, about four miles into the trip. Paddlers can turn right and paddle up the creek to the first set of riffles before returning to the river. In 2002, the Geneva Park District completed reconstruction of the short portage around the dam at Old Mill Park, on the left (east) side of the river, adding a fishing station and a gazebo. Watch out for cyclists on the busy bike path that runs along the portage.
Between the two access sites, there are at least ten landings or access areas with picnic facilities, hiking and biking trails, ball fields, nearby hotels and restaurants, and other amenities in St. Charles and Geneva.
Always check United States Geological Survey (USGS) water data before your trip.