Illinois River

A buddy and I will be canoeing down the Illinois river, from Chicago to St Louis, in May. I wanted to see if anyone has done this same route of part of it. Does anyone have any experience that they are willing to share about this river? We have been preparing for this trip for a few months now. We feel prepared.

I haven’t canoed it, but live in an arra where the local media reports on the river. Just a reminder - be careful of high water in May, be careful of barges (both of these I am sure you are aware of). Another is that in some areas there are a lot of grass carp. These are the ones that jump high when surprized. They get big and are a problem. Just be careful of them as they get quite big and have knocked people off their waterlice and smacked people hard while in boats. Imagine 30+/- pounds jumping out of the water smashing into the side of your head. Where I live near the Mississippi they are somewhat of a problem and I have scared some of them into jumping while in my canoe. Had to duck once and had one about 10 pounds land in the canoe. Just be aware.I know this is can be a problem from Havana south 30 miles or so. Nothing to stop or even slow you down, just be careful of this kind of different thing.

I have

– Last Updated: Apr-24-09 12:23 PM EST –

some pretty good knowledge from the Starved Rock area down to about Chilicothe, Il. The carp are a severe problem from Starved Rock down. They can be 50 lbs. plus and jump out of the water in groups.

You will also have locks to deal with. so a wait till enough boats come along to lower the water may be in order. The spot the lock at Starved Rock sits on was a city of 10,000 Native Americans about 400 yrs. ago.

The Starved Rock area is very scenic. Make sure to visit the visitor center.They have a canoe dock. and food and cold drinks. A bar and a good place to have a sit down dinner. LaSalle, Peru, Spring Valley are just old river towns. Spots to land are around these places.

You can walk to towns easily and get food, ice, etc. Or just take a break. The barge captains are very profesional and usually air horn and slow when they see you in a canoe. Always give them plenty of room. Be visible. You will see some powerboaters who have zero concern for you and any safety.

If you like to fish, the walleye fishing around this area is very good, use small white or pink jigs tipped with worms. If you plan to camp that may be a problem since nearly all land is private property. Although people camp here and there all the time without permission and are rarely noticed due to high banks, trees or the land owners don't care ?. Hotels are nowhere within walking distance.

Once you pass Hennepin ( also a good place to hit the grocery store ). You will feel like you just went back in time about 600 years , very remote and wild feeling. You will pass islands and the Senachawine area. I think they still have cheap camping.

Then on to Henry, another small town to re suppy in. Again back in time and very pretty as you hit Lacon ( another small town ). After 5 miles you can stay at the camp ground on river east. Then on to Chili as we call it. A bigger small town. After that you head about 20 miles to Peoria.

In the Peoria area the river is very wide and a bit windy at times. Its like a huge lake and I have seen sailboats on it !!!!. Peoria has everything you could want. Beyond that I have no info. I hope this helps and I will look back here if you have any questions about this just ask. I put some distance ESTIMATES below.

Starved Rock lock and dam ( and State Park )to LaSalle 351 and I39 bridges about 6 miles.

LaSalle to Peru 251 bridge ( landing just west ) about 3 miles.

Peru 251 to Spring Valley 89 bridge ( easy landing and town right near ) about 4 miles.

Spring Valley 89 to Hennepin I180 bridge ( landing/ town ) about 14 miles.

Hennepin I180 bridge to Henry 18 bridge ( town/landing ) about 12 miles.

Henry 18 bridge to Lacon 17 Bridge ( my favorite part of the river/ land/ town / eat at hot dog joint by dock- Vienna !!!! ) roughly 10 to 12 miles.

Lacon to small state campground on river east ( hard to notice so hug east shore ) about 5 miles.

Campspot to Chili ( land/ town ) roughly 15 miles maybe . after that its about another 10 to downtown Peoria ( I think/ check map !!!). I need to get a GPS !!!

After that I have no info. In general the river is smooth and has no whitewater or anything like that in this entire area.

Illinois River
I live in the Peoria area,as of right now the wickets are down at the Peoria Lock and Dam,river is still above flood stage,actually the buildings at the lock are in the water.Once you hit downtown Peoria,the Peoria riverfront has a Joe’s Crab Shack and a Hooter’s or across the river on the East Peoria side along the water front there is a Walmart,Steak-n-Shake,Chili’s,TGIF.Between downtown Peoria and the Lock and Dam there is a awesome place to eat that we go to all the time called Captain Ron’s. Further down the river below Pekin where the Mackinaw river dumps into the Illinois,people camp along the river during the summer months but if the river levels don’t start going down your going to have problems finding sandbars to camp on.

Thanks for the info and history. We are prepared for the carp and excited to experience jumping fish. We are also prepared for lots of water as the river is still high in the mid section.

Did you go?

– Last Updated: Jul-28-09 6:02 PM EST –

Did you guys go on this trip? I'd love to see photos and read a trip report.

Also if you're on the water now I'd love to buy you a beer in St. Louis.


Hardin to Grafton
I have only done the Illinois River from Hardin IL to Graffton IL. No problems there. Once you get to Graffton, you are on the Miss. There will be some locks to travel through as you get to Alton. North of St. Louis about seven miles , there is a lowhead dam. Please don’t jack around with that. I have stood on the “Chain Of Rocks” bridge several times just to watch that water turbulance at that spot. PLEASE KEEP THAT SPOT IN MIND!!! After the Chain of Rocks bridge, it should be no problems. Do watch for barges!! I don’t want to hear of any mis-haps on the news, DIG!

Chain of Rocks
The chain of rocks is floatable right now although as the above poster said be careful… if it looks fun to surf or you see any white water breaking portage it. I almost killed myself surfing it in a really high volume kayak. Like mud on my boat sucked to the bottom bad.

I realize this is kind of late but if you guys are on the river and are floating into st louis let me know and I will go check it out and let you know whether or not to portage.