Season: Late April and early May
The saying that a river is "one of a kind" is usually trite and without meaning; for each river, like each human, is truly a special creation of nature, unique unto itself. But to think, that the Illinois is much like other rivers is a serious mistake. The Illinois stands by itself, a river spirit unfettered by human greed and destruction. It's wild. It's alive. It's the best of the last, and the last of the best. It is, in our day and age, a one of a kind.
A Different Sort of River...It's apparent from the start that an Illinois adventure is not your everyday river trip. River runners accustomed to crowded put-in scenes on boat ramps and beaches covered with people and gear will be delighted by the Illinois put-in. Fifteen long miles of twisting road lead from Highway 199 and the little town of Selma, OR to the unimproved river bench put-in site called Miami Bar.
Occasionally you see another party putting in, but quite often you won't see anyone else on the river for the entire trip. You'll spend some time at the put-in inflating the rafts, tying all the gear in, donning wet suits, and double checking everything. Before you get on the river, we'll have a general safety talk about specific conditions, types of rafts on the trips and various river and camp procedures. Then, with a cheer, we're off the beach and heading downstream!
The first day of your Illinois trip starts with deceivingly quiet water until you get just around the first corner. Then the excitement begins. Although the big name rapids wait for the second day, the whitewater in this first day's run offers plenty of excitement. The first couple of miles see the last of the riverside trail. The canyon is steep, and the forest is old. It's obvious this place has been around a long time and retains its rugged beauty.
As the river twists and begins to constrict and drop, the rapids intensify and come closer together. The last vestiges of civilization have dropped far behind when you reach the first camp. Even if the springtime weather is cool or rainy in the evenings, our cozy camps are warm and comfortable havens for your enjoyment. It's easy to sit back and imagine what the Pacific Northwest was like when most of it was as uninhabited as the Illinois wilderness.
Days 2 & 3
The second day of your trip is spent in the heart of the wild section of the Illinois Canyon. Our experienced guides will stop to scout a couple of these rapids, as swiftly changing water levels and the ravages of each winter's high water can radically change each rapid's characteristics. Our top priority is your safety. It is possible that due to high water conditions or obstructions, the guides will judge some rapids to be unsafe. In this event, guests walk around the rapid while the boats are either lined through, portaged or run by the guides.
At the rapid named the Green Wall, everyone stops for a look and routes are chosen and scouted. At high or low water, this rapid demands and earns respect. Our guides have seen this river and this rapid at almost every runable level, and the intensely powerful and dramatic natural setting assures an exciting run at any level. This rapid is really in a league of its own and makes a visual impression that won't be quickly forgotten.
Below the Wall, rapids we've named It Ain't Over Yet, Let's Make a Deal, and Submarine Hole ensure that the excitement of the challenge just keeps on coming.
The second night's camp offers an opportunity for relaxation and reliving and retelling of the day's adventures, as our crew prepares another great, hot meal.
The last day's rapids begin to relent after the first couple miles, but there is more to see than just whitewater as we drift past the myriad of waterfalls cascading down the steep walls of the lower gorge. After a few miles the canyon noticeably widens and becomes less steep. A bit of the wild flavor begins to depart. There's a mixed feeling of gladness, in that you've challenged the biggest rapids the Illinois has to offer, and sadness, because the trip is coming to an end. Around the last bend, there's a take-out bench called Oak Flat, where the shuttle rigs await.
Our rafting trips on the Illinois River are offered in conjunction with our friends at Sundance Kayak School.