Blog

Friends of the Fox River highlights and news

Meet Your Water Snake Neighbors

By Slithering Jack MacRae Queen snakes are gentle but squirmy water snakes with unique colors. They are not female king snakes, but belong to an entirely different taxonomic genus and family. Their very cool name in Latin “Regina septemvitatta” means Queen Seven Stripe. Queen snakes are about 2 feet long...
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Plastics are Breaking the Laws

By Gary Swick, President At our Yorkville river cleanup, I realized that my very full bag of trash was exceptionally light. It lacked the usual heavy glass bottles and pieces of metal. The contents were primarily cigarette butts, plastic bottles, food wrappers, and miscellaneous other plastic products like polystyrene (Styrofoam)....
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Meet Your Neighbors: Turtle Power!

By Jack MacRae The eggs have all been laid.   Many thousands of the white spheres are now buried in our parks and gardens.  They look like ping pong balls.  The eggs were deposited in subterranean nests by our largest local reptile, the common snapping turtle. Common snapping turtles are truly common.  They live in...
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Dam Removal as an Act of Patriotism

By Gary Swick, President July is a time for celebration because July 4th is Independence Day for the United States of America. This holiday is not religion-oriented, nor a family-centered time for gathering. It doesn’t involve greeting cards or dressing up. But it does involve decorations with flags and some...
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It Takes A Community

By Gary Swick, President Remember Hilary Clinton’s 1996 book, “It Takes a Village,” and her 2016 Democratic National Convention speech reminding us that alone we can neither rear a healthy family, build a business, heal a community, or lift a country by ourselves? Collaboratively, we do better when we pool...
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Meet Your Neighbors: Cartoon Teachers

By Jack MacRae Today’s “Meet Your Neighbors” will look at 2 obscure and uncommon plant species and how their ancient names have been memorialized in popular culture, namely Calvin and Hobbs and The Simpsons. A Bitter Teacher Calvin (no last name was ever given)’s educator adversary was Miss Wormwood.  In botanical...
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Saving Long Lake – Part Two

By Gary Mechanic, Executive Director Late last year one of the final pages of a decades long battle to save Long Lake (in Lake County Illinois) came to a close when Illinois’ Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a settlement with Baxter Healthcare that will end that company’s decades-long pollution of...
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My Friend Flicker

By Jack MacRae Flicker meat tastes like ants.  I doubt I will get the opportunity to verify this (I would do it in a heartbeat) but times, tastes, and sensibilities have changed. The topic of tasting flicker meat was first raised by universally famous naturalist and artist John James Audubon, who...
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Harmony

By Gary Swick, President Lying in a hammock feels like harmony to me. It’s the cradled feeling of being safely supported while swinging in suspension. It’s peaceful and joyous. May brings about an incredible demonstration of nature’s harmony, with many factors playing into a unified production. Can you imagine trying...
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Those Dam Flies

By Art Malm, P.E., FOFR Director It’s that first warm, wonderful day of spring. The breeze is light; you feel the sun’s radiant energy through your light jacket. A perfect day to be paddling, or biking, or hiking, or just hanging out along the river.  But ugh! Nasty swarms of...
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Saving Long Lake – Part One

By Gary Mechanic, Executive Director Late last year one of the final pages of a decades long battle to save Long Lake (in Lake County Illinois) came to a close when Illinois’ Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a settlement with Baxter Healthcare that will end that company’s decades-long pollution of...
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“So Far So Good…Part 1”

By Art Malm, P.E., FOFR Director The Illinois State Water Survey and the Prairie Research Institute of the University of Illinois have completed a major new water quality study for the Fox River.  “Water Quality Trends Analysis for the Fox River Watershed: Stratton Dam to the Illinois River” (“WQTA”) shows...
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Meet Your Neighbors: Chipping Sparrows

By Jack MacRae Every April, a paranoid little bird appears in my yard.  He perceives his adversaries everywhere he turns.  He then feels compelled to physically confront these interlopers with every fiber of his 0.43 ounce body. Unfortunately, he is seeing his own reflection.  He cannot comprehend that he is the bird in the...
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State of the Fox River Report

By Gary Swick This year’s State of the Fox River Report is a celebration of things gone well and progress that deserves recognition. But this is an interactive report and celebration! So whenever you see a 👏, please celebrate by standing and yelling, politely clapping, smiling & nodding, or shouting...
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Tyler Creek Watershed Coalition

By Carl Missele, Treasurer TCWC The Tyler Creek Watershed Coalition (TCWC) was formed to initiate and manage the green infrastructure recommendations that came from the Tyler Creek Watershed Plan (TCWP). The TCWP was prepared utilizing funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. The...
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From the Heart

By Gary Swick My articles have been staying connected with monthly themes. So, following the months of charitable giving, holiday gifting, and New Year’s resolving, I am offering a Valentine’s Day message. Valentine’s Day has some interesting history, but it has become a Hallmark holiday with heart balloons, flowers, and...
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Meet Your Neighbors: Voley Moley!

By Furry Jack MacRae Voles live fast and die young.  There are millions of these mousy rodents in our grassy neighborhoods throughout the Fox River’s watershed, but they almost never make it to their second birthday. Meadow voles have their own cycle of life.  Bio-chronologists have learned voles do not subscribe to a typical...
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Resolve to Be a Better Friend

By Gary Swick, President In December’s newsletter, I offered the Fox River’s holiday gift list. I also promised that I would suggest a few resolution ideas to help you to give the Fox River what  it wants. The resolutions should be specific, achievable, relevant, measurable, and personal. We are all...
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How Does the River Flow?

From time to time Friends of the Fox River receives questions thru our website or Facebook page about the river, pollution and other watershed related issues. Here’s a question we received that FOFR  Director Art Malm researched and answers. J. Faust asks: Do you have an estimate of the volume...
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Mill Creek Watershed

By Holly Hudson, Senior Aquatic Biologist, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning The 31 square mile Mill Creek watershed includes portions of four municipalities (Batavia, Campton Hills, Geneva, and St. Charles) and five townships (Batavia, Blackberry, Campton, Geneva, and St. Charles. The primary land uses in the watershed are agriculture (30%),...
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Giving

By Gary Swick My assigned topic for this month’s President’s article is Giving. This seems appropriate as we are entering the giving period, culturally marked by Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the religious holiday mother lodes in December.  Now we participate in the latest non-profit annual holiday Giving Tuesday....
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Meet Your Neighbors: Nighthawks

By Jack MacRae The nighthawks are dining.  They appear at dusk in our October skies, swooping, darting and snatching bugs in their big mouths.  As neotropical migrants, nighthawks are on their way to Argentina where they’ll hang with the gauchos for the winter. Common nighthawks are slim, medium sized birds with big black eyes,...
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What Will It Look Like?

By Art Malm, FOFR Board Member Maybe the first question asked by almost anyone considering dam removal is “what will it look like?”. There aren’t many people left in the Fox Valley who remember what the Fox looked like before the dams were built. Doubtful their grandparents did either. The...
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Who Drinks the Fox River?

By Kyla Jacobsen, FOFR Board Member Years ago, people settled and communities grew up along rivers. People and animals had access to water and it was an easy way to transport goods by rafts or floats down the river. There were no dams back in those days and it allowed...
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Meet Your Neighbors: Spring Cuties

By Jack MacRae Ephemeral Flora Spring beauties (claytonia) are true cuties. They’re wee little flowers found in our mature oak and maple woods. Look close and you’ll see five peppermint pink striped petals that form a saucer shape corolla, two soft green sepals that form the calyx, and five stamens with...
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Love Our River Days

by Gary Mechanic, Executive Director The Fox River has come a long way from the days when it was the most used and abused river in Illinois. An 1908 monograph describes the Fox River: “… the tributaries often bring large amounts of sediment, and various manufactories along the river discharge...
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Diversity and Stability

by Gary Swick One of the basic concepts of ecology is that diversity leads to stability. The Fox River watershed has two kinds of diversity! It can boast of biological diversity, and a diversity of groups that work to preserve and increase the biological diversity. Diverse Origins Illinois may seem...
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Meeting New Challenges

By Gary Mechanic, Executive Director 2017 was the worst of years, and the best of years, and I’ve seen a lot of years. I’m 70 and I’ve never seen federal protection of the environment take such giant steps backwards! Since the USEPA was created in 1970, it has dragged it’s feet creating pollution...
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Resolution 2018

Resolution 2018: Connect to Nature By Gary Swick It’s in the middle of the Friends of the Fox River’s mission statement; Connecting people to nature is what we do. It initiates a natural wonder within people that brings a sense of joy and a desire to care for what we love....
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Are You a Friend Indeed?

By Gary Swick Everybody is in favor of protecting water quality aren’t they? Clean water ranks in the top 5 most important interests in national citizen surveys. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, most Americans ranked the environment as a top policy issue that President Donald Trump and...
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Cruising for Visions

By Gary Mechanic, Executive Director Following the recent solar eclipse, Friends of the Fox River’s President Gary Swick drew a parallel in his monthly newsletter article between the ancient anxiety caused by the temporary darkness of an eclipse, and the depressing darkness that many of us feel about the temporary...
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Meet Antoinette White

Meet Antoinette White Aurora Outreach Educator Recent Monmouth College graduate Antoinette White is a welcome addition to our Fox River Monitoring Network. With a double major in environmental science and biology, and the recommendation of our veteran educator and Aurora Watershed Watchdog program leader Emily Dombrowski, we know her work...
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New Education Team

New Education Team for the Fall Season By Gary Swick For many years, Friends of the Fox River’s streams outreach education program was a one-man show, run by retired Johnsburg teacher David Rigby. In 2009, the project was funded by a federal grant for 3 years. The program quickly grew...
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2017 Fox River Basin Survey

The 2017 IDNR Fox River Basin Survey By Steve Pescitelli, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries During the summer of 2017, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources conducted fish surveys in the Fox River basin as part of a statewide program to monitor the health of Illinois stream...
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Lessons from the Total Eclipse

By Gary Swick Picture yourself standing on the banks of the Fox River 1,000 years ago. Imagine experiencing a total solar eclipse without any knowledge of what is actually occurring, or why it’s happening. It is more likely that it would be regarded as frightening than interesting or exciting. After...
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2017 Annual Photo Contest Results

A beautiful foggy morning photo near Saw Wee Kee Park in Oswego. Photo by Bradford Vineyard Our 2017 Annual Photo Contest has ended and our selection committee is in the process selecting winners. We received a wonderful assortment of photos- 47 total- portraying this year’s theme of “The of Flora...
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Flooded Fox brings some Lessons

by Gary Swick Rivers and their tributaries usually have seasonal cycles of spring and fall flooding, with a “low flow” condition in summer. Flooding has benefits to the natural river system through nutrient distribution and scouring of sediment. The land areas that absorb the flood conditions are referred to as...
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Why Do I Think You Owe Me A Beer?

by Gary Swick, FOFR President For a non-profit organization, finding financial support for their important work is always a challenge. Friends of the Fox River (FOFR) has a long and strong reputation for incredible achievements from volunteer efforts. FOFR is now at a point where we are expanding our services,...
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Fly Fishing the Fox

By Pat Okonek, Board Member, FOFR One of my favorite hobbies is fishing, especially fly-fishing. I took it up as a youngster and had the good fortune of growing up next to a river. Besides lots of actual fishing, I learned how to “read” rivers and learn how fish behave and...
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2017 Annual Photography Contest

It’s that time of year again when spring is in full bloom and some of the best opportunities for photographing life on the Fox River abound. And the time has come for Friends of the Fox River’s Annual Photography Contest. So in keeping with the season, the theme for this year’s...
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Life Lessons from the River

by Gary Swick, FOFR President Life is a process of transformations. All organisms go through stages that are ultimately driven by sex and conclude in death. Understanding this can help us to cope with the events of our lives. Our lives, our endeavors, and the river, all have seasons. This...
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Our Waters, Our Fox

Article written for the April 2017 “Bravo Magazine” by Dean Tripp Our Fox By its very nature a river belongs to more than one people, place and time. Our Fox is no exception. The water flowing into and out of it is a resource we can’t create or destroy; we...
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Help Friends – Drink Beer?

How on Earth does having a beer party help Friends of the Fox River clean up the river?!? Friends of the Fox River President Gary Swick explains: “Our annual fundraiser is a reminder that without protecting the Fox River we’d lose many of the things we enjoy and take for...
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No Water No Beer Auction and Raffle Items

You can make this FUNdraiser  an over-the-top success! Local businesses support Friends of the Fox River because it’s a public water drinking source, our key recreational resource, and clean water equals great beer! Favorite local businesses, and our special friends, are pitching in to make this FUNdraiser over-the-top successful. Sure,...
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