Stateline in sight for Rock River kayakers

Kayak for Sabercats: Day 6

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

The three college students on the Rock River paddling trip known as “Kayak for Sabercats” are approaching the Rockford area.

After a relaxing Friday, May 16, Jake Boucher, Garrett Feik and Jon Gress  set up camp on private Wisconsin farmland before a laborious Saturday paddle, one against the wind and choppy water of the 10,500-acre Lake Koshkonong, in Fort Atkinson, Wis.

At a RV park near the lake, the men welcomed help from supporters, including Martin Musgrove, who heard about the trip last week.

To help them avoid rough waters, Musgrove transported the paddlers to a calmer area on the lake so they could continue down river.

“We really appreciate the support,” Boucher said. “People recognize us now. They honk and wave. It’s nice.”

Until Friday, Boucher said they hadn’t met many people as they paddled through rural Wisconsin. That changed at Riverside Park, in Watertown, Wis., where Maranatha Baptist University students, faculty and community backers welcomed them with a hamburger and hot dog lunch.

“That was nice,” Boucher added. “We got to meet a lot of people, including a man who paddled the Illinois River from Peoria.”

Friday also turned into a fishing trip.

“We caught some catfish and carp,” Boucher said. “The (carp) Garrett caught was about 2 to 3 pounds.”

Boucher is a sophomore at Maranatha, while Gress is a senior. Feik is enrolled at Western Illinois University. The trip is a fundraiser for new uniforms for Maranatha’s athletic teams.

The teams are now known as the Sabercats, after years as the Crusaders. Maranatha has also been renamed to reflect its university status. The school was founded in 1968 as Maranatha Baptist Bible College. It became a university last December.

Meanwhile, the trip continues south, as Feik, Gress and Boucher will be ahead of schedule when they paddle into Janesville, Wis., Monday, May 19.

“The decision to continue through to Watertown (Thursday, May 15), put us about a half day ahead of schedule,” Boucher said.

Boucher, Feik and Gress will arrive in Rockford by Thursday, May 22. The 18-day journey will end by Thursday, May 29, in the Quad Cities, where the Rock River is picked up by the Mississippi River. The 320-mile paddle began Tuesday, May 13, at Horicon Marsh, near Waupun, Wis.

The trip marks the first since the Rock River Trail, which spans the river’s length, was named a national water trail in 2013. It is also the first on record in the last 20 years.

Rockford photographer Nels Akerlund paddled the river from start-to-finish in the early ’90s, and recounted the trip in pictures in Our Rock River (Chelsea, 1995).

Follow the trip along the Rock River Trail at

Send donations to:

Maranatha Baptist University Sabercats
745 West Main St.
Watertown, WI 53094

Online donations can be made HERE. The goal is to raise $10,000.

Garrett Feik, of Pekin, Ill., caught this brown carp along the banks of the Rock River, south of Watertown, Wis., Friday, May 16. (Photo provided).