On April 25th, the SOU Whitewater Club launched on the Illinois River with a blistering sun in the sky, promising flows, and four Illinois virgins. In our group we had six SOU students, former SOU student Dan Thurber, and Alan Jones from the Portland area. Amazingly and despite the weather and flows, no one was at the put-in when we arrived. We cruised down to Pine Flat for the night and waited for the sun to go down. Later in the evening, a two boat trip went by and stopped at Pine Flat Right, just around the bend from where we were.
The next morning the sun broke through the few clouds that there were and began to heat up the canyon. It was so warm that I decided to not even throw on a dry suit, a first for me on the Illinois. Right now I kind of wish I had, given the massive sun burn all over my body. Nevertheless, a day like this on the Illinois is hard to come by, so we soaked it in and headed downstream.
At South Bend we stopped for lunch and a breather before Green Wall. Alan hadn’t been down the Illinois yet this year but had heard about the “new” hole at the bottom of Green Wall. I was curious what it would like as well at this flow so we planned to run the entry rapid and eddy out before the first drop. So much for plans. My boat made one of the weakest attempts at catching an eddy that one will ever see, and before I knew it Emilie and I were waiting at the bottom of the rapid. Alan caught the upper eddy, but when moving to a lower one he bumped a rock and headed downstream. We saw him drop through the first part just fine but at the bottom he went into the meat of the hole and was pulled back in for a big surf. He was there for awhile but some how stayed in his boat, which popped out next to the wall and came bouncing into the eddy next to us.
Dan was rowing a stern frame with four paddlers and had caught the eddy with no problems. At this point, the two folks from the two boat trip had walked down the entire entry rapid and had watched my boat miss the eddy, had watched Alan get surfed in the bottom hole, and were now about to watch Dan and his crew nearly get swallowed as well. Dan and his crew had a good line though, caught a little piece of the hole at the bottom, but flushed through just fine. Dan ran back upstream to see if the other trip would like us to hang around which they, after seeing our less-then-ideal runs, thought would be a good idea.
The first cat didn’t make it to the first drop without trouble. He was surfed in a hole in the entry and got separated from his boat. Somehow, he caught it and climbed back in while going over the first drop. His oars were out and he continued downstream as resident high-sider before dropping into the big hole at the bottom. Luckily, Dan was able to snap photos of the run… and cat boater #1 was safe and sound at the bottom of the rapid.