CANTON, Ill.--Notes from the lower end of a trip along the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway.
Out of Hennepin & Hopper Lakes at Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge and down the east side of the Illinois River.
I've done that drive in the fall. Took the right pace.
Took about a leisurely hour to make Julie's Corner Store in Lacon, where I met Ducks Unlimited biologist Eric Schenck.
Julie's is the kind of place--knickknack stuff, fudge, coffees, teas, wine tasting--you take your wife to earn the right to an afternoon of fishing.
Buying fudge there is a necessity. I bought a quarter pound to take home for my wife.
Schenck and I first stopped at Wightman Lake just across the river in Sparland.
``It's like Johnny Cash, ``How high's the water, Mama?' '' Schenck said.
The crest is rolling down the Illinois.
The byway has brought people in to look at the Wightman, originally a DU project now owned by the state. And both the state and DU have tried to make it a learning area.
It's home to the decurrent false aster, a federally threatened species. Best to see it in August when blooming.
Hundreds of Canada geese and mallards took flight as we walked.
Learn things, he mentioned ``Good stuff for wood ducks is good for promontory warblers, similar habitat to wood ducks.''
We stopped at Chillicothe Bottoms, a new DU project smack on the edge of an urban area of Chillicothe.
Mallards, Canada geese and wood ducks (some wonderful displays by the male woodies) by the dozens in the flooded timber.
That project is a cooperative one with DU and Audubon, an innovative notion in itself.
Then a quick stop at the spanking new Peoria Riverfront Museum.
Then down along the river toward Canton.
Dana Smith, the tourism and marketing person for Canton, gave a tour of Canton, once of the home of International Harvester.
Town took a beating when it went away three decades ago, but the town has come back, unlike many other small towns.
In a good part because of the efforts of the late Bill Cook and his his medical device company.
Smith pointed out the place of Jones Park, in the center of the square, as a historic spot when a mob gathered to drive the Mormons out of Nauvoo. But the Mormons escaped ahead of the righteous citizens.
There's some neat murals, made from old post cards, on the walls of downtown buildings.
As Smith pointed out the Tin Man style water tower, she noticed a flock of geese right behind it.
I love stuff like that.
Dinner and duck talk with Schenck, Heath Hagy from the Illinois Natural History Survey and Randy Smith, new IDNR wetland program manager (waterfowl biologist), at Bistro 101.
It is fascinating to listen in on smart guys talk about something as difficult to understand as duck populations. It is a learning experience.
Crashed at the new boutique hotel, Canton Harvester Inn. Smith and I talked about how might market it toward hunters, particularly waterfowlers.
Off to Emiquon Preserve in a few minutes to band bluebills with Hagy.