Mention the Illinois River to any experienced boater and their eyes will light up. It's legendary for big whitewater, beautiful camps, and jaw-dropping scenery. This trip flows through the northern end of the famously rugged Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Southern Oregon.

The Illinois River flows through the north end of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness

The Illinois River flows through the north end of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness

River flows on the Illinois are highly variable due to it's rocky watershed and the unpredictable weather of the Siskiyou Mountains. High flows are dangerous on the Illinois, so you'll want to avoid going during or after heavy rains. If you're lucky enough to have sunny weather you'll experience a deep green water color that is unlike any other.

Featured Outfitters

ARTA River TripsARTA River Trips (800) 323-2782 is a non-profit organization that runs 18 of the best rivers in the West.

Momentum River ExpeditionsMomentum River Expeditions (541) 488-2525 offers world-class rafting and adventure travel trips in Oregon, Northern California, Idaho, Alaska, and beyond.

Northwest Rafting CompanyNorthwest Rafting Company (541) 450-9855 is an award-winning group of professional, well-trained guides that lead people down the most beautiful rivers in the world.

The unique serpentine geology of the region produces many unique (and endangered) plants. The most interesting is the Darlingtonia Californica (a.k.a. Pitcher Plant) which has adapted to the lack of nitrogen in the soil by trapping and digesting insects.

Trip Highlights

Mile 0: Put-in at Miami Bar. There is an alternate put-in 4 miles upstream at McCaleb Ranch.

Mile 2.5: Briggs Creek Rapid (II) is just above Briggs Creek which enters from the right side.

Mile 2.9: Panther Creek enters on the right hand side and signals the beginning of the Panther Creek Rapids (III). This is a series of three rapids that make a good warm up for the bigger drops downstream.

Mile 3.3: Labrador Creek Rapid (III) begins just after Labrador Creek enters from the left. The Kalmiopsis Wilderenss Boundary is just downstream.

Mile 4.1: A large boulder rising above the horizon line marks Rocky Top (IV), the first Class IV rapid known for the dangerous undercut boulder in the middle of the rapid. At most flows there is a sneak line on the far right.

Going right of the large "Rocky Top" rock

Going right of the large "Rocky Top" rock

Mile 4.8: York Creek Rapid (IV) is a fun, long rapid that begins soon after York Creek enters from the right.

Heading into the bottom drop on York Creek Rapid

Heading into the bottom drop on York Creek Rapid

Mile 5.3: The Goat (III+) has a rock slide on the right which drives the current left and into a wall on the left.

Mile 5.5: Clear Creek Rapid (IV) is a long rapid with some big holes at the bottom. Clear Creek cascades down the right wall after the rapid.

Mile 6.1: After a flatwater section, there is a small camp (or lunch spot) on a sandy beach on the right bank.

Mile 6.5: Rapid #29 (II) has a narrow channel on the right that is fun for rafts and kayaks. There is a great kayak surf wave in the main channel with good eddy access.

Taking the right line at Rapid #29

Taking the right line at Rapid #29

Mile 7.9: Pine Creek Rapid (IV+) is separated into two channels by a large rock island. The left side is an easy Class II move and the right side and Class IV move around (or possibly through) a big hole known as the "Boat Eater."

Paddle raft hitting the Boat Eater

Paddle raft hitting the Boat Eater at low water

Mile 8.0: The area just downstream of Pine Creek Rapid is known as Pine Creek Flat. There are large camps on both sides of the river here.

Mile 9.1: Wallbanger (aka Florence Creek Rapid) (III) occurs where a rock bar extends into the river from the right and forces the main current left into a wall on the left.

Mile 10: Klondike Creek enters from the left side.

Klondike Creek entering the Illinois River

Klondike Creek entering the Illinois River

Mile 11.7: Rapid #51 (IV) begins after a mellow section of the river. This drop has several rocks and holes and changes quite a bit at different water levels.

Mile 12.5: Deadman's Bar has a big camp on a bar high above the river on the right side. Look for a small eddy on the right with a rocky trail up to this bar about 30 feet above the river. It's a bit of work to get your gear up to the camp but this is one of the few camps in this part of the river.

Making dinner at Deadman's Bar on the Illinois River

Making dinner at Deadman's Bar on the Illinois River

Mile 13.1: Rapid #63 (III) occurs where the river bends to the the left between rock walls. Tony's Camp is a medium sized camp just downstream on the right.

Tony's Camp on the Illinois River

Mile 15.4: Rapid #78 (III) is one of the many great Class II and III rapids in this section of the river.

Mile 17.1: South Bend is a small camp or a nice place to regroup and have lunch before Green Wall. You'll recognize it by a big Radiolarian chert (pinkish/reddish rock) boulder on the right and a small creek entering on the left.

A Radiolarian chert boulder on the right marks South Bend

A Radiolarian chert boulder on the right marks South Bend

Mile 17.8: Prelude Rapid (IV), aka Fawn Falls, marks the beginning of the most difficult section of the Illinois River. There is a nice far left chute at lower flows. At medium and high flows there is a nice right line that is pretty straightforward.

Mile 18.1: Green Wall (V) is a famous rapid that should be scouted from the left. It's a long, complicated rapid that can be portaged by kayakers with some effort. It would be VERY difficult to line or portage rafts.

Green Wall Rapid on the Illinois.

Green Wall Rapid on the Illinois.

Mile 18.8: Little Green Wall (IV) is a tricky rapid that is tough to scout and can cause more problems than Green Wall. The next 2 miles has nearly continuous Class III rapids.

Mile 19.5: Rapid #98 (III+) has two large boulders in the middle of the river that provide three distinct lines.

Mile 19.6: Sweeney Todd aka Rapid #97 (III+) is pretty easy at regular flows and one of the hardest rapids for rafts at low water.

Mile 20.1: Rapid #103 (III+) is formed by a slide from the left and is formed by large boulders that seem to block the entire river.

Mile 20.4: Holey Pohle (IV) has a ton of boulders in the entrance that offer a variety of ways to enter. This is one that you may want to consider scouting from the right side.

Holey Pohle Rapid on the Illinois River

Holey Pohle Rapid on the Illinois River

Mile 21: Submarine Hole (IV+) has a reputation for flipping rafts at all flows for a variety of reasons. At lower flows rafts flip by riding up the right bank. At higher flows rafts can flip in one of its huge holes.

Negotiating Submarine Hole Rapid on the Illinois River at 1,000 cfs

Negotiating Submarine Hole Rapid on the Illinois River at 1,000 cfs

Mile 21.7: Collier Creek enters from the left and there is a great camp just downstream on the left.

Mile 25.4: Silver Creek enters on the right side. This beautiful creek is worth exploring if you have some time since the Illinois River Trail is close to the river here.

The mouth of Silver Creek is a great place to have lunch or hike along the Illinois River Trail

The mouth of Silver Creek is a great place to have lunch or hike along the Illinois River Trail

Mile 26.1: Rapid #131 (III+) is a fun rapid with a small campsite on the left at the bottom.

Mile 28.4: Indigo Creek enters from the right side. The left bank is a good place to see Darlingtonia (Pitcher Plants) and other rare plants.

Daringtonia (Pitcher Plant) with Indigo Creek in the background

Mile 29.3: The Illinois River flows through a beautiful canyon and Buzzard's Roost is a small peak 1500 feet above the river on the right. This was the site of the proposed Buzzard's Roost Dam.

Mile 29.5: Horsesign Creek enters on the left after Horsesign Creek Rapid (III+).

Mile 31.4: Take-out on the right bank at Oak Flat. You can also continue down a few miles and take-out on the Rogue River.

Written by
Zach Collier

Please Add Your Thoughts!