Kaskaskia River

Does anyone know anything about the Kaskaskia River between Lake Shelbyville and Carlyle Resevoir In Illinois? Looking for distance, depth overall, shallows or rapids.

I have an old, out-of-print “Illinois
Canoeing Guide” that says the following. “The Kaskaskia River is a nice, quiet, winding stream. In has no particularly magnificent scenery, but the river is relatively undisturbed… Below Shelbyville, the stream is isolated and access points are few in number.” Nothing about rapids. They advise paddling in late spring or early summer.

The reservoir will have changed that. Right now, Illinois is in drought like Georgia, and while the river would normally carry 500 or more cfs and be runnable, it is very low and not runnable. So, you’re doing research for the future, not next weekend.

Rather than putting in at Shelbyville, right below the dam, you might consider Cowden and route 128. Below is a link for the Cowden gaguethat can help you with conditions.


Pick up the entire link, paste and go there. You will see a map page from the USGS site. You can select other map views (photo from space, topographic) and you can pull the page around and roll your mouse wheel to get a closer look,

What I saw was a river that is big enough to keep itself clear of trees when it is running at normal levels. You won’t see rapids. You can scout where there are sandbars to stop, etc. Give it a try and let me know if you have questions or problems.

Are you experienced with air photos?

– Last Updated: Jul-09-12 1:50 PM EST –

I just looked at that whole length of river on Bing Maps. Clearly it was a wet season when the photos were made, but the river didn't look high at the time, judging from all the exposed point bars. Experience dealing with rivers of that type and size SUGGESTS that there will always be deep enough water, but it would be best to take a look at it first, if you could. Perhaps the Army Corps of Engineers would have some idea about whether the river is too shallow for canoes or kayaks. I'd expect the whole stretch to be mostly easy going, with shallow spots during low water to be avoidable by anyone with river-reading skills, but you never know what the dam might be doing to change that. The river is roughly 3 to 4 feet lower than what would seem "normal" (based on a quick look at gauge data), so maybe the straighter, wider sections will be pretty shallow and slow going, and cutting toward the inside of a curve to miss fallen trees might put you in extreme shallows. I did see one spot that looked like there "might" have been rocky riffles, but the lighting at that location was poor on account of tree shadows, and the overall lay of the land and river layout makes me question whether any riffles were actually present. There are quite a few places where the river becomes quite narrow, roughly 60 feet, allowing fallen trees to fall most of the way across the river. This happens much more frequently upstream of Highway 11 than below that road. There was one narrow stretch near the upper end of having a whole string of fallen trees, some of which might have completely blocked the river. I'd expect even the worst of these sections to be fairly easy to get through, as tree-blockages go, depending how comfortable you are with that sort of thing. Elsewhere in the narrow spots, it appears that trees sometimes block the whole width of the channel, but usually not. Most places, fallen trees do not even come close to presenting an obstacle.

Check maps and photos for yourself to choose a trip. It looks like there are MANY good options. The Bing site is really nice, and easy to use. If it were me, I'd avoid the few stretches having houses, and aim for places with larger patches of woods, but nearly the whole river has wooded shores.

Do you fish? It looks like classic channel-catfish water!

Forgot to say that for distance,
you can go to Google Earth, have it zero in on Shelbyville, and then use the “path” function of the distance measuring tool (toward the right on the toolbar) to go down the river and get the distance in miles. It doesn’t matter how zoomed in or out you are, the distance tool takes that into account. If you screw up, right click will remove your error. And you can pull the map with the cursor as if it were a “hand” tool.

Google Earth allows you to “save image” and for the Kaskaskia, printed images might be OK as a functional map.

I didn’t
know it had that function. Thanks for that info!

I was
using Google maps and Mapquest on the satelite view. I’m not good at reading the water from these things due to shadows etc. Also don’t consider the images to be up to date. Not sure how often those are updated.

Not into fishing 'cause I couldn’t catch a fish from a barrel full of fish.