Sunday, November 25, 2007

Illinois River Trip

Dan and I rafted the Illinois River on November 17th and 18th. Rogue River Journeys, SOU White Water Club, SOU Outdoor Program, and the Galice Resort made this trip possible. This trip was my first down the Illinois River, and we were expecting a lot of precipitation. The flow of the river can spike quickly on the Illinois, so I found myself with some apprehension when we showed up to the put-in and it was pouring down rain. The level was already close to 3,000 cfs and rising quickly. I, personally, was not sure if we should continue on with trip, however Dan and Will have been on the river several times (Will alone has rafted the Illinois 11 times), so I put my trust in them and their judgment. We rigged our boats quickly in an attempt to stay ahead of the rising water.

There were five rafts and five kayakers on the trip. I was going to be paddle assist with Leland Fulton in Will’s raft. I was happy to be in a boat with Will because of his experience in boating and on this river. We had a long distance to go on Saturday so we didn’t mess around a whole lot for the first few hours. Our time was spent reading and running most of the class IV rapids and one of the rafts almost flipped three times, causing the guide to swim a rapid and his passenger to swim another rapid. I was extremely impressed with the beauty of the canyon, the speed of the water, and the giant waves and holes in the first six miles.

The first rapid where I really started to understand how powerful this river was is called York Creek Rapid. York Creek Rapid is an s-curve rapid and our boat was the lead boat so we got through the rapid first. Once through the rapid we eddied out and set up safety. Watching the other four boats come through the rapid was the first time I realized how fast the river was moving. The 18 miles leading up to the Green Wall Rapid went by very quickly due to the speed of the river.

At Green Wall, we stopped to scout. Scouting took about an hour because of the long hike to get to a location we could scout from. Once back in our boat, we ran the rapid as the second boat. Chip’s boat ran lead and while they plunged into a big hole, they had a really solid line. As we entered into the rapid we were aiming to run the left side of the monster whole which would take us right over a rock and then would allow us to hug the left side of the rapid the rest of the way down. However, instead of flowing right over the rock, we got hung up and spun around 180 degrees, dropping into the big hole backwards. Leland almost got sucked out of the boat, but somehow managed to stay in. Will recovered quickly and spun the boat back around.

However, a few seconds later we got hung up on another rock and were facing upstream dropping into another hole. Somehow we all stayed in the boat and Will got us facing downstream in time to miss the big flip rock on river right. Exhausted, we caught an eddy on the left and set up for safety. We watched every other boat have a clean solid run through Green Wall. After Green Wall is a three-mile gorge that is consistent and fast with big waves, holes and countless class IV rapids. The wave trains in this gorge section were the biggest waves I have ever seen. We camped below Collier Creek at a camp framed by waterfalls.

The camp is the best river camp I have stayed at. After setting up the kitchen and some tarps, Dan and I set up our tent and devoured some Kettle Chips. The Chips were the all new Organic Chipotle and they were amazing!!!

Day two started slowly as people worked off their hangovers and then moved quickly once we were on the water. It took us only an hour to travel eight river miles to the take-out. At the take-out, Dan and I shared some Sour-Cream and Dill Kettle chips and then settled down in the shuttle van and began the long drive back to the Selma House. A few hours latter and a rescue lock-smith we were all safely back in Ashland.

This was my best river trip ever!

1 comment:

Let's go rafting! said...

Good thing ol' creepy fingers Leland was with us. He provided the stability necessary to run the gnar without the gnar-gnar-gnastiness. Let's go boatang!