line decor
line decor










Saturday, June 16, 2012
Trueblood Performing Arts Center  
7:00 p.m.

Presentation by Ralph Frese

The founder and the spirit of Chicagoland Canoe Base

Photo by Gareth Stevens


In recognition of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and a crucial event which took place on our Great Lakes, Ralph Frese will be talking about that episode that finally gave our new nation freedom from British domination, something that did not result from winning the Revolution. This is an overlooked bit of our history. Learn how our fledgling nation accomplished this and gained world recognition among other countries.

Ralph C. Frese was born in Chicago in 1926 and has always lived on the northwest side of the city. His father was a blacksmith and he began working with his father in the late 1940's, becoming the fourth generation to follow that trade in the family. He had acquired a kayak while a teenager and began exploring local waterways. Becoming involved as a scout leader, he began building canoes for his scout troop and this developed into becoming the Chicagoland Canoe Base, known as the 'most unusual canoe shop in the U.S.A.'.

Among the many of his accomplishments are the Annual DesPlaines River Canoe Marathon, now in its 55th year and the 2nd oldest such event in the nation, conceived the idea of re-enacting the Joiliet/Marquette discovery of Illinois on the 300th anniversary in 1973, was appointed a member of the Illinois Tricentennial Commission by the governor, was a charter member of the Chicago Maritime Society and donated his personal collection of over 120 native and antique canoes and kayaks from around the world to their collection, created realistic appearing birchbark` canoes used in film work, interpretive programs by the National Park Service, state parks, forest preserves and nature centers as well as historical reenactors. Presented a paper at the dedication of the Canadian Nation Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario, speaking about the role the Canadians and their canoes played in the development of our middle west, Initiated the printing of the first Illinois State canoeing guide. Was honored with a lifetime membership by the United States Canoe Assn. and the American Canoe Assn. made him the first recipient of a new award called Legends of Paddling. Many of his craft are in museum collections nationwide and has built both dugouts and birch barks used in filming the TV mini-series Centennial and more recently, the story of the building of the I & M Canal. Has had the upper Chicago River named the Ralph Frese Water trail by our Cook County Forest Preserve commissioner for his dedication in trying to have it cleaned up. Started an annual New Years Day trip down the river, now in its 27th year and run by our CCFPD. Was given a lifetime achievement award from the National Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque and entered into its Riverman's Hall of Fame.

Ralph Frese' love of canoeing and curiosity has led him into many diverse fields of interest in his lifetime, such as the early history of Illinois, the natural history of our local rivers and their environmental problems. Sharing this passion with others has resulted in many others getting involved and has put a new meaning in their lives as a result.







web design: Marko Nastic