|Front entrance to the Chicagoland Canoe Base|
Chicagoland Canoe Base was established as an outgrowth of Ralph Frese's
interest in the use of the canoe in outdoor recreation. Today, the
Chicago Canoe Base provides paddlers with a local resource for equipment,
accessories and repair and restoration services. Featuring a large
selection of canoes, kayaks, clothing, a expansive book and video
collection, the canoe base is more than just a retail store. Step
into the workshop of master craftsman Ralph Frese and take a step
back in history where canoes and kayaks of all types are restored
and replicas are built. As a service to groups and individuals, the
shop also rents canoes and kayaks and is an important resource to
paddlers on the surrounding water trails in the area.
The Chicagoland Canoe Base is not only the most unique canoe shop
in the U.S., it is a tradition.
A fourth generation blacksmith, Ralph Frese began building canoes
in his blacksmith shop for his scout troop. This was the beginning
of the the Chicagoland Canoe Base, now known nationwide as the most
unusual canoe shop in the U.S.A. receiving visitors from around the
Among his many accomplishments are the annual DesPlaines River Canoe
Marathon, the three hundredth anniversary reenactment of the Jolliet-Marquette
expedition of 1673, the creation of realistic appearing birchbark
canoes made of fiberglass, the beautiful family of canoes known as
the Canadienne, and many other historic and environmental happenings.
He has amassed a collection of over ninety native and antique watercraft
and thousands of books and ephemera on the subject.
Ralph gives illustrated lectures on the role of the canoe in Illinois
history, on the water trails of the Midwest and the environment state
of these waterways. Ralph Frese has been the recipient of many federal,
state and local awards and was recently recognized by the American
Canoe Association to receive the first of a new national award given
called Legends of Paddling.