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The Source of the Sangamon River


Over the past few summers I have explored most of the small roads around the middle and lower parts of the Sangamon River.  Recently I decided to find out about the source of the Sangamon and how it transitions from fields into the scene I am more familiar with.  These photographs show the Sangamon from its origin near Ellsworth, in McLean county, to Saybrook; a straight-line distance of about 10 miles.  The stream actually begins about a mile or two SW of Point 3, on the Northern slope of the Bloomington Moraine (1st map), but field management has reduced the visible signs of it.  For more information about central Illinois watersheds, visit this Illinois River Watershed Map (PDF format, 3.6 Mb).


Points 1-8

Points 7-12
Each of the photos below was taken at a place that is numbered on the maps to the left.  Each map will open in a new window of your browser.  You may then view the photos in your original window without losing the map.  To reach Point 1, turn North onto county road 2600E, at the Casey's General Store on U.S. Hwy 150 in LeRoy.

Point 1
Road 2600E ascending the Bloomington Moraine - the 4th largest in Illinois - from the South.  Moraine View State Park can be accessed from the top of the hill.

Point 2
Looking East along road 1200N from where it intersects 2600E.  Follow this road to reach Ellsworth.  The Sangamon at its origin is forced East by the higher elevations immediately ahead in this view, and by the Bloominton Moraine to the South.

Point 3
View to the SW from the middle field, of three, immediately NW of Ellsworth.  Surface drainage gets closest to road 1200N at this spot.  On this day it was no more than a damp strip, but, it runs through all three fields exactly as plotted on the map.

Point 3
Looking East toward a culvert that collects drainage from the fields.

Point 3
The smallest tributary of the Sangamon.  The main drainage path is perpendicular to the arrow.

Point 3
The culvert at the end of the fields, which is Point 4.

Point 4
Standing on the culvert looking West.  From here its easy to see how the field directs drainage to this point.

Point 4
The West side of the culvert/bridge at Ellsworth.

Point 4
The Sangamon becomes a ditch at this point.  A Great Blue Heron is visible in this photo, standing in the ditch at about 7 O'clock relative to the "2" of the date stamp.

Point 4
A better view of the Heron.  Less than 100 feet after it becomes a "river", the Sangamon is already habitat for endangered species!

Point 4

Point 5
On the first bridge over the Sangamon, East of Ellsworth looking West.

Point 5
More field drainage entering the ditch.

Point 5
The view Eastward.

Point 5
Fish over the spot indicated by the arrow in the previous photograph..

Point 5
Preparing fields South of the ditch.

Point 6
The river after collecting drainage from one tributary ditch and picking up a little speed.  Its about 5 miles long at this point.  Looking NW.

Point 6
View to the SE from the same place.

Wind turbines were erected near this spot several months after the photo.  See The Wind Turbines at Ellsworth for related photos.

Point 7
Here it is after collectig drainage for another 6 or 7 miles, looking West.

Point 7
Probably a sucker, lurking near the grass.  Up to this point the banks are fairly protected and the water is still clear.

Point 7
The opposite side of the same bridge.  From this point onward it starts to look more like the Sangamon that most Central Illinoians know.

Point 8
Another tributary that joins the Sangamon just downstream of Point 7.

Point 9
On 3600E looking North toward the river.

Point 9
There was a bridge at this spot but only the foundations remain.  At this point the transition from clear water to the silt-laden Sangamon seemed almost complete.  The formation of a local valley was also more noticeable.

Point 10
On 3700E looking South over what is now a definite valley.

Point 10
Looking upstream.

Point 11
View of the Sangamon valley from the intersection of roads 1000N and 3700E, just upstream of Saybrook.

Point 12
The 1000N bridge in Saybrook, the first place where the river is actually labeled.

Point 12
North side of the same bridge.....

Point 12
.....and the South side.  The transition from gently sloped fields - to clear-water ditch - to the muddy Sangamon is complete.

The Sangamon many miles to the South, at Oakley Road in Macon county; the South channel looking East on the day after a January snowfall.
            
An old crane catching late-afternoon sun at the gravel quarry in Buchart, bewteeen Decatur and Springfield.