Janée Matteson is a little wary of technology. The more ubiquitous it becomes, she finds, it has more potential to keep kids indoors (a trend she has dubbed “acute nature deficit disorder”). Janée, whose family’s roots have been growing in Morris for nearly 200 years, basically spent her entire childhood outside, learning fur trapping and duck hunting with her father on the banks of the Illinois River. So in addition to her deep passion for the outdoors, founding Kayak Morris was largely inspired by doing whatever she could to help kids, their families, and domesticated teddy bears spend more time in nature.
Kayak Morris offers kayak and canoe lessons, and in addition, patrons can borrow their largely new fleet for leisurely trips along the Illinois River, Mazon River, or Illinois and Michigan Canal, which are home to wildlife such as great-blue herons, bald eagles, coyotes and red-tailed hawks. The staff also lead guided ecotours, which teach kids and adults about natural resources and what they can do to preserve and protect them for future generations. Family-focused private campgrounds is adjacent to the State Park along the rivers’ sandy shores invite groups to stay for monthly Glampouts (glamorous campouts) and spend their days taking advantage of potluck dinners, hiking, fishing, bike rentals, or guided kayak tours and to spend their nights watching a movie on Morris’ outdoor projection screen as campfires crackle nearby.
The die-hard paddlers of Geneva Kayak Center stay on the move throughout the year?both in their watercraft and across the globe. From May to September, they are headquartered in and around Chicago, where they teach kayaking during courses, workshops, and quick orientations, and dole out kayaks, canoes, and tubes for those who want to explore the Fox River's whitewater on their own.
When cold breezes start to blow through the Windy City, they head to Saint Marys, Georgia, to lead kayak camps and sea adventures on the Cumberland Island National Seashore. They also lead curated adventures off the costs of Alaska and Maine and in Wisconsin's idyllic Door County, where kayakers might spot deer grazing on grass or nibbling on cheese curds.
With about a decade's experience in starting up rowing clubs across the country, Row America is well versed in bringing the sport to a new audience. Its introductory Learn to Row classes teach sculling and other techniques to beginners whose only watercraft knowledge may have come from watching old Love Boat reruns. But Row America also serves more experienced athletes, who may dream of competing in the Olympics like founder Howard Winklevoss's sons did in 2008, with clubs for high schoolers and adults.