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USRC members look for mussels on the bottom of the Sangamon last fall. The mussel survey is one of the organization's annual events.

Next Saturday, the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy will host a crash-course on their namesake waterway.

Their first-annual USRC Showcase will highlight the organization’s conservation and recreation efforts on the Sangamon, including river clean-ups, mussel surveys, restoration of the Hazen Bridge and more.

The goal, USRC founder Scott Hays said, is to connect with people interested in helping with those volunteer efforts, as well as to educate the community about the river.

"We’d like to get people to see more of the things we’re doing," he said, adding that they’re always looking for more volunteers.

Visitors to the event—held at the Izaak Walton cabin at Lake of the Woods—can check out hands-on exhibits and, if weather permits, go on a short canoe or kayak ride on the river. 

Around 1 p.m., staff from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will hold a brief presentation on fish diversity in the Sangamon. 

Children’s activities will include a small-scale mussel hunt in a kiddie pool, simulating the efforts of volunteers who hunt for mussels in the river.

The event is free to the public, but visitors can donate to USRC’s efforts if they wish. Among the organization’s goals are purchasing more canoes and kayaks, as well as upgrading the vehicles used to transport those vessels.

USRC members are working together with the Village of Mahomet to create more access points for boaters on the river, including along what’s been dubbed the "Rivertrail."

"We have a lot of public land in our area where people can put boats in, but it’s not always conducive," Hays said.

In addition, USRC members would like to purchase signs identifying the river and its feeder waterways. On Interstate 74, for example, "there’s currently not a sign of any kind that says ‘Sangamon River,’" Hays said, noting that signage for rivers and their watersheds can help residents be more mindful of how their actions impact the environment.

Hays said he hopes the showcase will become an annual event, helping more people get connected with the Sangamon.

"We think of it as our community’s river, our community’s asset," he said.

IF YOU GO

USRC Showcase 

1-5 p.m., April 23, Izaak Walton Cabin, Lake of the Woods