The first annual Chicagoland Midsummer Weekend-Long Messabout
will be held at Pierce Lake in Loves Park, IL on July 18-20,
2008. The plan is to keep this on the third weekend in July
indefinitely unless there’s a good reason to change it.
As is not often the case for a first-annual anything, we have
pictures from an experimental one-day event in July 2007. Since
it was an experiment with a new lake, so we didn’t want
to invite the general public only to find it was not a good
arrangement. Fortunately, it turned out to be ideal for future
Pierce Lake is 162 acres of water wholly contained within Rock
Cut State Park in Loves Park, Illinois. If you don’t have
a map handy, that is just north of Rockford and just south of
the Wisconsin border. The lake is an impoundment of Willow Creek
– the creek is small but the drop at the dam is huge.
The sole disadvantage of this lake seems to be that the main
launching point is at the windward side of the lake, so it is
always unwind on the way back. But the lake isn’t so big
that this can pose too much trouble. Even if everything fell
apart, poling back in the shallows isn’t so terribly far
it would be a major problem.
But you wouldn’t have to because motors are allowed.
But it is the best kind of motor-allowed lake – motors
over 10 hp must operate at no-wake speed. (I had to wonder if
a tiny johnboat with a 9.9 could go screaming all over.) This
must keep away the majority of power boaters because on a perfect
weekend day none of us had to wait to launch. And there is no
launch fee! Most traffic on the lake was sailboats and canoes,
and some of those pedal boats that the park rents out. You can
imagine how remarkable this is within two hours drive of Chicago.
If you simply must have a hydrographic map, you can get one
HERE for $4. But I wouldn’t call
any of the contours surprising, so it might not be worth it.
When you see weeds it’s getting shallow.
A further indicator that this lake is the right sort of lake
… late in the afternoon Chris Feller and I were the only
ones still there. A guy pulled in with a 1915 Dispro launch
that he took 50 years restoring! He got the engine in high school
and it took him 50 years to accumulate a hull and all
the mechanical parts, then replace half the wood in the hull.
We were probably babbling like idiot kids, but let’s not
think about that. Anyhow she fired on the first spark and we
guessed she went chugging off at a healthy 8 mph with almost
(click images to enlarge)
So who was there in 2007?
Me with the AF4B
Chris Feller with the Philsboat
Mike Sandell with the Vector. I only got a photo of him in
company with the others, on the right. Sorry Mike.
Tom Hamernik in the Mixer
Dan St. Gean in his really, REALLY fast proa. Actually he tells
me it’s a Polynesian canoe, since it tacks instead of
Dave Seaburg in Windigo. Sorry about the imperfect photos,
Dan Johnson didn’t know about the event, but he’s
clearly “one of us”. He came with a mirror dinghy
his dad built from a kit in the basement. I guess that would
be a “classic” homebuilt boat! It was pretty fast
Now the really cool part. There are non-electric campsites
right on the water for $12 per night. The shoreline is rocky,
but I think it would work to drag little boats up over an Astroturf
doormat, or secure big boats between an anchor and a tree. In
spite of the imperfect beaching situation, the setting seems
very promising for a weekend messabout.
The trouble is that you can’t RESERVE these sites. The
lady at the office said as long as the site is paid and a tent
set up, you’re OK though. So we could arrange something
where the folks going on Thu night or Fri morning have the money
and tents to hold spots for those who won’t get there
until later on Fri.
The “landable” waterfront sites are 39, 41, 45,
49, 51, 55 and 57. These are all in a cove that shelters from
the prevailing wind, though 57 is relatively exposed. Right
across the narrow road and uphill are 22, 24, 26, 28, 29. Directly
adjoining those (and also uphill) are 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 18,
19. Site 11 is uphill across the next road. All of these are
pretty close together with no bushes or anything. So all offer
a good view of boats beached at the waterfront sites. I’d
call them all partial shade. For those who like a little more
privacy, 59, 60 and 20 are more wooded, overlooking the lake
but with no good landing. They have wooded slopes leading to
the water. You might be able to manage something at 59, but
the shore is exposed to the prevailing wind.
There is also a boat launch ramp on the same peninsula as the
campsites, but with less parking than the one on the other side
of the lake. This is probably a wise move, since most campers
will park their trailer at their campsite.
There are two more oddities that bear mention. First, no swimming
is allowed in the lake. I’m not sure why this is or whether
it is enforced. The more difficult limitation (for a Wisconsinite)
is that no alcohol is allowed in the campground. (I guess I’ll
live through it.)
So knowing all this, the first weekend-long Chicagoland messabout
will be held at Pierce Lake on July 18-20, 2008. If you are
interested in attending, be sure to contact me so we can hold
you a camping spot. We intend to continue having Spring and
Fall day events as well. If you want to keep track of when these
are happening, consider joining our…
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Madison, Wisconsin, USA
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