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Zip the Illinois Valley!

Embrace the adventure at Echo Bluff

Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 11:00 a.m. CST
Caption
(IVS photo/Goldie Currie)
Aside from the zipline at Echo Bluff, a high rope obstacle course is available for those looking for a bit of a challenge. Pictured is Mark Dempsey of Ladd as he takes on just one of the courses. The activity is great for team building skills and the various options for obstacles range from easy to hard. Participants are asked to allow between three and four hours to complete the high rope obstacle course.

Searching for a thrilling adventure close to home? How about one that gets the blood pumpin’ and adrenaline kickin’?

Hall Township’s Echo Bluff Park has just the thing to fill these wishes. With its 250-foot-long zipline and high rope obstacle course, it provides a big attraction at a small park.

Echo Bluff Park is a hidden gem, located off Route 29, between Spring Valley and DePue.

About six years ago, local zipline enthusiast, Ken Pisarczyk introduced the fun of ziplining to the park. Today, the adventure attracts all sorts of crowds — families, groups of friends, classes, retreats, co-workers looking for a team building exercise and even 4-year-old campers.

Echo Bluff zipline instructor Beka Dagraedt, explains it’s an activity that anyone can try out and overcome a fear.

“A lot of people are scared of heights. Thirty-three feet in the air is high, but not too high, so it’s a good place for people to overcome that fear,” she said. “I like it for the adrenaline rush and just the excitement of doing it.”

At Echo Bluff’s Zipline, participants are strapped into a harness and helmet and with the help of the instructors, they climb to the top of a 33-foot high platform. Once on top, an instructor straps participants into place on the zip as they are seated on the platform. Once everything is in check and the instructor gives the “go ahead,” it’s time to take a deep breath, prep for a thrill, shimmy off the edge and leave all fears at the platform as you soar through the air.

Samantha Brown, Echo Bluff zipline instructor, explained the activity is fun; it creates a new interest for people who are doing it for the first time and provides new, exciting memories in ones life.

“To have people face that fear and say,’I did it.’ — It’s a huge accomplishment and confidence booster. You set your mind to it and go for it,” she said.

Echo Bluff’s Zipline is safe for all ages. While it’s a bit on the adventurous side, Brown said she’s seen children as young as 2 years old get on the zipline. Special harnesses are provided for younger ages.

The activity is also a great attraction for those looking to let go of an emotional time or overcome a hardship in one’s life.

“We do a lot of retreat groups, and we have one group with all divorced women —they all had something to let go ... the same with retreats for widowed women,” Brown said. “Echo Bluff’s Zipline is the place to let it go. Leave it on the platform when you jump. Leave those bad feelings here and let go.”

The instructors will be honest when they say it can be a challenging activity, and some may find it’s just not for them.

“It’s not for everyone, but most people who come out to do it, set out to do it, and we encourage them all the way,” Brown said.

Dagraedt added many times people who are zipping for the first time tend to be scared or nervous, but once they are able to swallow their fears and let go, a lot of times they are left with a proud smile on their face.

“By the time they’re on the ground, they’re so glad they did it,” she said.

To try out the zipline at Echo Bluff, people are encouraged to call ahead to make sure zipline instructors are on duty.

The cost to zip is $25 for two zips or one zip and a try at the high rope obstacle course. Private parties are also welcome. The costs for up to 15 participants is $300. Call 815- 447-2115 to reserve a spot.

Participants are asked to wear closed toe shoes, dress appropriately for the weather and bring water, insect repellent and sunscreen.

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