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Fox River - St. Charles IL/Boy Scout Island review


For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Fox River begins in southeastern Wisconsin and flows south down to the Illinois River, where the two rivers converge in Ottawa.

The Fox River is a beautiful and very interesting river, with many dams and pools for power boating, yet also many shallow areas where even a kayak bottoms out. You definitely have to know the river if you are planning to put in. It travels through many well-known towns and suburbs, so there is a lot to do in addition to getting your boat wet.

Historic St. Charles IL is a beautiful town with a lot of restaurants and small local businesses downtown, and it sports a public boat launch on the Fox River called Boy Scout Island:

The Boy Scout Island ramp is part of the St. Charles Park District. If you check it out on the web site, it looks like you have to pay to park, but on-site the box for payments has been closed up during COVID.

The ramp itself is pretty steep and also pretty busy. It is also usually very slippery, so just a heads should you need to venture out into the water to launch or trailer your boat. I'm going to talk a bit about the culture here on this stretch of the river because its not a place for impatient boaters. If you're the type of person who gets frustrated by other people at the boat launch, this is not the place for you. There is only one ramp/launch at Boy Scout Island and it gets backed up easily, as I will explain.

The pool of water here is about 2 miles long. You can boat south a short distance to the dam near IL Route 64, and the view of downtown St. Charles is beautiful.

Going north from the launch, you can safely boat up about 2 miles to Red Gate Road. There is a bridge at Red Gate Road that goes over the river. Know that there is a significant sand bar just north of the Red Gate Road bridge, on the east side of the river. Its a super popular hangout place, but the sand bar is entirely under water. If you are not familiar with the area, you will not know it is there... but your outdrive will. lol.

The river opens up again after the sand bar, but you can only go north a short while before it becomes very shallow. If you're looking at a map, you'll see a big curve near Silver Glen Rd/Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve. By then it is all jet skis, pontoons and small fishing boats. Depending on the river level, you may not make it that far north. My advice would be to take extreme care if you are going past Red Gate Rd.

Across the river from Boy Scout Island is another St. Charles Park District property, Pottawatomie Park:

At Pottawatomie there are two paddlewheel boats that run tours up and down the river during the summer months. They are big and slow, and they will be out on the river. If you're in town and want to take the paddlewheel cruise, its a lot of fun, family friendly and I also believe handicap accessible. There are also pedal boat rentals at Pottawatomie, so you will see kids and families out on the river here pedaling around.

Getting back to the trip north towards Red Gate Road, you will see Ferson Creek Park on the west bank. It has a canoe launch, and there are a lot of people in canoes, paddle boards and kayaks in this area.

Lastly, I will mention that there is a lot of fishing going on here at this part of the river. You will see a lot of people fishing from the banks and there will almost always be fishing boats out on the water, at nearly all times of the day.

In case you would not have guessed by now, there is more often than not an element of confusion at the launch as people have to share one ramp to come and go. It is a very busy boat launch, possibly because the pool of water is so short. There seem to be a lot of casual boaters who are not super skilled at getting their boat in or out of the water. Its not uncommon to see a boat tied up for 10 minutes or more while people do (something?) instead of getting their boats in or out of the water.

There will be a few jet skis out, and usually one or two wake boats/water skiers as well. If it floats, there's a chance you'll see it here.

When dusk starts to come in, if you're still on the sandbar, just think back on your day, smile and relax. Your wait to leave can be 45 minutes to an hour down at the boat ramp. Again, this is not a river pool for impatient people. I would say it is more of a family environment.

As far as amenities go, there is a portable toilet, and that's about it. However, the launch is just outside the downtown district, so if you are looking to come in to town for some shopping/dining/otherwise, you can make a day of it.

Overall, this is an absolutely beautiful part of the Fox River valley and this pool of water is great for a short, low-key boating trip.

A few more photos for your viewing pleasure.

Does anybody know what that baby blue boat is?


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