Thursday, September 13, 2007

Appreciating Illinois Rivers, Celebrating “It’s Our River Day”

Appreciating Illinois Rivers, Celebrating “It’s Our River Day”

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It’s easy enough to live in our part of Illinois without thinking too much about rivers. They are numerous here, but small and heavily altered, and most people encounter them only as they drive over bridges. But stop to dip your toes in one and you are connected to a system that makes life here possible.

Statewide, Illinois boasts 33,000 miles of permanently flowing rivers and streams. If you lined them all up they would stretch the length of the state from north to south 85 times.

We ask a lot of these waterways. More than seven and a half million people in Illinois get their tap water from rivers or other surface water sources, including reservoirs. We hunt and fish and boat and birdwatch on rivers.

We also depend heavily on rivers for taking water away. Cities and industry combine to discharge millions of gallons of treated wastewater into Illinois rivers and streams every day. These waterways are also essential for carrying off storm water, making it possible for people to live and farm in areas that would otherwise remain too wet for such purposes.

Human uses aside, Illinois rivers and streams are home to amazingly diverse aquatic animal communities, including 185 species of fish, 57 species of mussels, and hundreds of species of insects. These aquatic communities are, in turn, interwoven with the wider community of animals that inhabits river corridors, everything from painted turtles and tiger salamanders, to otters, osprey, bald eagles, and herons. Indeed, river corridors account for nearly all of the high quality wildlife habitat that remains in east central Illinois.

All of this is a long way of encouraging you to participate in “It’s Our River Day,” a coordinated effort to promote appreciation for rivers in Illinois, this coming Saturday, September 15th.

You can celebrate “It’s Our River Day” locally at the 10th anniversary Salt Fork River clean-up and workday. As in the past, volunteers of all ages are welcome at this event, where they can help beautify and promote the health of the Salt Fork River by picking up trash and removing invasive plant species.

Cosponsored by Salt Fork River Partners, the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, the St. Joseph group, Save Our Trees, and Prairie Rivers Network, this year’s clean-up has been moved upstream from it usual headquarters to highlight the new wetland restoration project in St. Joseph. At the wetland, which is being developed by the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District, volunteers will also have the opportunity to help install nest boxes for wood ducks, purple martins, and bluebirds.

Volunteers for the Salt Fork River clean-up are asked to dress in clothes that can get dirty and bring along work gloves and reusable water bottles if they can. Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. on the St. Joseph-Ogden High School lawn. The first 200 volunteers will receive a free calendar featuring photographs by local residents that highlight the many ways the Salt Fork River enhances our lives.

For more information about the Salt Fork River Clean-up and Work Day via email contact or By phone, call Prairie Rivers Network at 344-2371