June 5, 2014

The Illinois

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Ever had one of those trips that you’ve always wanted to do, but never quite get around to actually making happen?  The Illinois River has been one of those for me.  Located in southwestern Oregon, it’s just a little too far from Bellingham for it to be an easy weekend objective, and it’s a short enough stretch of river that it’s tough to justify a longer trip/time off from work/etc.  So, it became something we talked about doing for years, but that’s as far as it ever got.  This year, we finally decided that enough is enough, so one day after work four of us piled into my rig and hit the road.

I’m so glad that we did.  The Illinois is incredible.  We made it to the put-in at 2AM, camped next to the car, and woke up the next morning with nothing ahead of us but three days of paddling on a beautiful stretch of wilderness river complete with warm sunshine, fun rapids, crystal clear turquoise water, skinny dipping,  amazing riverside campsites, and drinking well-earned beers around the campfire with good friends while watching the stars.  It really was that good, and the river is at a perfect level in the early spring, when warm weather hasn’t quite fully hit Bellingham.  It was like being transported two months forward in time.  It has me fired up to check off a few more of those lingering projects that I keep putting off, and I know for sure that we’ll be back for another trip down the Illinois next spring!


Nothing better than waking up to coffee and sunshine at the put-in after driving all night.

There’s nothing better than waking up to coffee and sunshine at the put-in after driving all night.    Instant summer in just eight hours, with the prospect of a weekend on the river just ahead.


Packing the boats is like having to solve a puzzle every morning.


Finding a little extra room for the important stuff.


Amy and Hilary explore around the next bend amongst some beautiful Oregon scenery near the start of the run.


There’s a line, but none of us fired it up that day.


The entire length of the run has been designated as Wild and Scenic.  Stunningly beautiful from start to finish.


The water was incredibly clear. I love that “magic carpet” feeling of drifting with the current and watching the river bottom pass below.


Sharing a campfire with friends under a starry sky.  What it’s all about.


Amy running Green Wall, the biggest rapid on the run, on day two.

Hilary Neevel finishing her out Green Wall.

Hilary avoiding the big hole at the bottom of Green Wall.


The flatwater sections of the run had no shortage of great scenery to keep it interesting.


Near the end of the run, the river passes through a series of deep canyons.

Chris Tretwold running a rapid on the Illinois River.

Lots of fun splashy whitewater in the last few miles before the takeout.


A few more images from the trip: