Illinois River


From Snovember to May, no more Chilly Illy

Waterfalls on the Illinois River

Our last trip down the Illinois River in southern Oregon (November 2010) was beautiful, but CHILLY as we camped in the snow along the way. BRRRRRR….. Definitely memorable and amazingly, enjoyable as heck! Thanks to Will Volpert of Indigo Creek Outfitters for putting that amazing trip together.

This trip, also with Will, was even better and reunited us with some old friends from the Snovember trip and allowed us to make new friends. The Class IV (V) Illinois River at 1000 cfs, sunny 90 degree weather, and a group of solid boaters. What could be better?

It all started with Will posting that he and some of his Indigo Creek crew were heading out for a weekend adventure. I inquired where and was told it was the Illinois. Ahhh man, you got room for a couple more tagalong catarafters? Heck yeah, but no room in the shuttle. Bahhh! Time for a quick call to Bearfoot Brad who shuttles fortunate boaters on the Smith to see if he could do a shuttle for us on the Illy. Nope, Sunday is mother’s day and he had family obligations. Double Bahhh! Brad suggested we camp at the take-out and he could bring the truck in the next day. YES! Trip on!!

Sunshine on the Illinois

Quick, put the boating gear together! Grab some food and head out for a 6+ hour drive to Selma, Oregon to meet the gang. Got a late start, so arrived at Selma at midnight, we’ll meet the crew in the morning… And a great crew it was! A bunch of guides for Indigo Creek Outfitters, their friends, our friends from the last trip (Mike, Creach and Jen), and Gabe from the Siskiyou Mountain Club. No snow on the ground this time and projected high of 95 degrees. Ahhhhhh…

Fireline to move gear

The weather and water was beautiful. We had around 1050 cfs on the Kerby gage, plenty of sunshine, and more water coming in via waterfalls and side creeks, lots of it. This canyon is even more beautiful when the sun is shining! There were a fair number of boaters floating that weekend so camping with our large group could have been a problem. After running a bunch of enjoyable Class III rapids in the upper end, we camped above the Green Wall at “deadmans.” Will had never camped there before, but it turned out to be a great camp. Lots of room on the bench above the river. A fireline of boaters made short work of getting the gear up the hill. A huge salad and even larger pot of spaghetti has us all feeling full – I can’t believe we ate the whole thing!

The next day, Will and Dana (and the other cooks) treated us all to a great breakfast and that same huge pot full of cowboy coffee. Yummm! Then it was on to the river to challenge the best the Illy has to offer: Prelude, Green Wall, little Green Wall, and Submarine Hole. At this level, most of these are Class IV, with Green Wall deserving of a Class V rating. About half went right and half left at Prelude, tight drop either way.

After the long, class III introduction to Green Wall, there is the entry slot to drop through. It kind of tips you right as you drop a few feet into the boiling water below. This is just the entrance, don’t screw up here as it would be a long, beat-down swim… I rounded the corner to see Mike pulling back hard to catch the eddy as Will was stuck in the slot in his wider Avon raft. I pulled hard and caught the eddy, as did Lacey behind me. Once Will was free and through the rapid, Mike took his shot. A bit sticky in the slot, but then a nice run down the Green Wall.

I was next and partially caught an oar in the slot, causing it to jam into my chest and nearly knock me from the boat. A quick recovery, hands still on the oars, and I was through. I did NOT want to swim there! After my initial blunder, I had a very nice run through the rest of the rapid. Lacey was next and the words of advice from the safety person on the rock “ship your oars…” Which she did, expertly, and proceeded to make all of us look bad with a perfect run down the gnarly Class V.

Lacey in Green Wall

The remaining rafts had varying levels of success. The R2 crews took some interesting lines and managed to pretty much stay in the boat until they emerged at the bottom. Zach and Gabe in the other oar boat took a most interesting line resulting in two ejections. Gabe was underwater long enough for me to quit filming, put down the camera, and start looking for him (worried) before he ever came up. The “Harvey” hole must be pretty dang deep! Luckily his high-float PFD popped him to the surface before he totally ran out of air.

Submarine Hole on the Illinois

Don’t underestimate the remaining rapids. Little Green Wall is anything but “little.” This solid Class IV rapid has some good drops and tricky maneuvers. So fun! Submarine Hole proved challenging for most due to the narrow slot on the left where boats want to climb the slanted rock. The R2 crews actually climbed onto the rock and then passed the boat to the other side. Zach and Gabe in the oarboat managed a spectacular slo-mo flip, all captured on video. No harm done as there were plenty of safety boaters in the big pool below.

The rest of the run was pretty uneventful. There were no serious rapids in the lower end, just lots of beautiful scenery and waterfalls and the namesake for our trip leader’s outfitting company, Indigo Creek. So beautiful! Thanks again to Will for hosting an awesome time on the Illinois.

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