Illinois River – November 17-19, 2006

When most people talk about running the Illinois, they assume it’ll be sometime in March, April, or May. After looking at some historical data, I noticed that the Illinois tended to come up to runnable levels sometime in mid-November. I called a few friends in Moscow, Idaho, and set a date of November 17th (and crossed my fingers for water). This was sometime in late September, so we knew it was unlikely that our prayers would be answered.

Watching the Illinois gauge from two weeks out is frustrating. The predicted flows were, at first, way too high – something like 4500 CFS. Then, two days later, they were way too low – around 400 CFS. But, when it was all said and done, two-days out from the trip the predicted flow came in somewhere around 1500 CFS – just about perfect.

From Moscow, we had the NRS boys: Brian C., Blake L, and Josh D. Brian and I had worked together on Idaho’s Middle Fork and Main Salmon Rivers the previous three summers before he had taken a job at NRS. Tagging along with them was Andrew Wilkin, a student from University of Idaho and also a Middle Fork and Main Salmon guide with Brian and I for Idaho River Journeys. We also had Dan Thurber, Chris Uthoff, and Matt Tolley in kayaks.

We met at Ray’s in Selma, grabbed our permit and headed to the river. The sun came out and we had a great day floating to Pine Flat. Upon reaching Pine Flat, we busted out camp, a few drinks, and the usual guide mayhew started. After a night hooting, we crashed out and enjoyed a peaceful night of sleep.

The morning started off slowly with the popping of advil and rigging of boats… and then it was river time. The sun broke free and we got to enjoy the Illinois in its splendid glory! JD was taking photos so we took our time, pausing here and there for another photo-op.Upon reaching Prelude, Dan ran through first and was able to get some great shots of the rafts and JD’s cat shooting through the slot on river-left. Then it was on to Green Wall, where we ran the entry rapid and eddied out above the top drop. We scouted for a bit and JD set up for photos. All of us had some great lines and before we knew it we were below the Wall and cruising to Pimp Slap. Made it through everything and soon we were at the waterfall camp, beginning round two.

Woke in the morning, pushed off, and got to take-out around noonish. The Idaho guys had to get back pronto so took off for a long drive. Dan, Matt, Chris and I headed back to Selma… Another great Illy trip!

Some of JD’s shots: