Paddleboarding has somewhat changed the way we approach backcountry travel. Growing up canoeing rivers, we could never get enough; our trips got longer, our boat got heavier and heavier. When we were not paddling, we were packing backpacks with ultralight gear and hiking deep into the wilderness to find seclusion and a sense of exploration. The boards bring it all together, there is a sense of freedom when traveling light with only the minimal gear needed.
Our plan on this trip was to explore a lake in Southern Illinois, just southeast of Carbondale, Ill., called Devils Kitchen. The lake butts up to a wilderness area that we have always enjoyed backpacking to. It’s roughly a five-mile paddle from the northern end of Devils Kitchen lake to the Panthers Den Wilderness hidden in the southern part of the lake.
It’s argued whether or not Southern Illinois is part of the Ozarks, but as we paddled from the wide-open water of the lake into the long, finger-like coves, the rolling hills and exposed rocks looked an awful lot like the Ozarks. Small rocky shores turn into larger borders and bluffs that rise out of the water.
The reward of this trip was definitely the campsite that felt totally hidden and remote. Even though Panthers Den and the rest of Shawnee National Forest isn’t technically a part of the Ozark plateau, it sure felt a lot like home.
Special thanks to