Friday, May 7, 2010

DuPage River Trail / Whalon Lake

Tried the new DuPage River Trail on a temperate, breezy spring day. Parked in the DuPage River Sports Complex at Washington Street and Royce Road in southeast Naperville.

The brand new, paved trail is a short but scenic segment of what will eventually be a world-class ride: an off-street, paved route from downtown Naperville along the DuPage River to 188th Street. Currently, the trail runs from downtown Naperville to 87th Street; the segment from 87th to Royce Road is under construction (It's also blocked off at 75th Street due to a major intersection reconstruction project.) The route I took this day will be a spur off that main trail.

It's about two miles from Washington Street to Whalon Lake. The trail is mostly a gentle downhill grade as you ride eastward, paralleling Royce Road. The asphalt pavement is baby-butt smooth; silt fencing from the construction still lines the riverward side. The trail passes through open prairie and patches of woods. The DuPage River meanders through the park.

A small lake sits above the river next to the trail; it must be fed by a spring from the higher ground to the north. I stopped to watch a small largemouth bass patrol the weed edge.

All too soon, thanks to a tailwind and the grade, I arrived at the Whalon Lake complex. It's a two-year-old facility with a small lake -- a former limestone quarry -- as its centerpiece. It has excellent facilities: toilets, picnic tables, covered pavilions and a dog park (the dogs are having a blast running around inside the fenced enclosure, which is a joy to watch). The lake is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, and crappie -- Catch and Release only, yay.

The lake is limited to boats 16 feet long or less, and no gas engines are allowed; you can launch your dinghy at the disconcertingly large ramp and pier big enough to handle a cabin cruiser. The paved trail loops around the 266-acre lake. It's about 1.5 miles around.

I actually worked up a sweat on the return trip: the long, gentle uphill grade combined with the steady 20-mph headwind from the west to make a moderately challenging ride.

I'd highly recommend this trail for families with kids looking for a pleasant hour or so on a gentle path. The scenery is wonderful.

Once construction is complete on the segment from Royce Road to 87th Street -- sometime this summer or early fall -- this is going to be one of my favorite local rides. The DuPage River Trail will eventually connect to the Illinois Prairie Path to the north, and the Virgil Gilman Trail to the south.

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