I first arrived in Southern Oregon as a raft guide back in the summer of 2016, and I kept hearing about this river called the Illinois. It seemed that everyone agreed that it was their favorite multi-day river trip in the area, but I was never in Oregon early enough to catch the spring flows. This year I had a chance to spend three days on the Illinois from Miami Bar to Oak Flat, and I now finally understand why this section of river is so special.
What Makes the Illinois Special?
To start with, it’s very possible that you’ll have this river to yourself if you start on a weekday. A long shuttle, relatively challenging rapids, and remoteness in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness really limit the number of boaters that come out the Illinois. It’s hard to find solitude on many of the classic multi-day rivers these days, so this is something to be savored. Secondly, the water quality on the Illinois is astounding. The Illinois is a Wild & Scenic River, and is designated as such with one of the remarkable values of the river being its water quality. The water is so clear that you’ll be mesmerized by multicolored rocks on the riverbed as you enter a rapid.
Finally, the river cuts through a beautiful section of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest to create rapids that keep you on your toes while providing plenty of fun moves. Rapids such as Green Wall and Submarine Hole are notorious enough that even locals who haven’t run the river are familiar with their names.
After finishing up an early season trip on the Rogue a group of fellow Northwest Rafting Company guides (Emily Little & Kristen “Chuck” Bryson) and I set our sights on the Illinois. Emily and I kayaked it while Kristen took a 12-foot raft down. Flows were around 800-900 cfs for the trip. This level was on the low side of good, but plenty of fun was had launching off boofs and getting the raft down a few tight spots. Unfortunately I subluxed my shoulder early on in the run so I stuck to more conservative lines for the rest of the trip. I’ll be back in the future though to play around a bit more.
If you're a solid Class IV boater in Southwest Oregon during the spring I’d highly suggest checking this run out. It’s a classic for sure, and AW has all the info you need to throw a trip together.
Enjoy these photos from the run, and feel free to add your own experiences in the comments!
Questions or Comments?
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