Guidance planning Illinois River trip

I would like to, sometime in the future, kayak/canoe from Willow Springs to Chillicothe. I can see it would be the Des Plaines River and then the Illinois River.

I have no experience kayaking in a river. I did a very small amount of recreational sea kayaking in Monterey, CA years ago and have canoed on calm lakes.

How long would a trip like this take? Can it be done in a day? Would it take a week?

Also, where/how can I build up the skills that I would need to undertake such a trip? I know that I am unprepared currently, but would like to work up to being able to do this. This trip would be done with a few friends who are as inexperienced as I am.

Thank you so much for your help.

P.S. - I am a youth pastor and am always looking for good activities to do with our youth - can you recommend something on the water that is relatively easy, safe, and fun for a group of teenagers in the Chicago area?

Both for you, and for your youth,
experience on a number of short trips is prerequisite to a big project like canoeing down the Illinois. I’ve grabbed some links below which should help.

I grew up in Palos Park but have only paddled the “big” Vermillion and the Middle Fork Vermillion. I would find the Illinois interesting only in part, such as the Starved Rock area. Downstream it gets locky and commercial.

Not to discourage you…
The Illinois is a bad river for paddling, especially for novices, way too much power boat and barge traffic. A paddling friend of mine also pilots barges on the Illinois River. He’s always telling me stories of paddlers that he comes close to running over.

If you’re looking for a multi day river trip, I suggest you drive the four hours it takes to get to the Wisconsin River.

Lots of great places to paddle in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, check out some river guide books and DVDs. has a great selection to choose from.

Mark Morrall

So, its not the best idea
I have a friend that lives in Chillicothe and thought it might be a fun way to get down there as opposed to driving. If we both started off here and ended up there. . .

Oh well. I am still very interested in learning. I have always enjoyed the water and Illinois doesn’t have an ocean - so rivers and lakes it is.