The Illinois River cuts a deep canyon through Southern Oregon’s Kalmiopsis Wilderness, one of the wildest places in the Northwest. It is normally run in one to three nights from the put-in at Miami Bar to the take-out at Oak Flat. A trip down the Illinois is serious undertaking that requires logistical planning, solid whitewater skills, and a high level of preparedness. The Illinois drainage is prone to flash floods, so be aware of the weather forecast for your trip. The river can easily double in flow overnight, turning an exciting trip into a life threatening wilderness epic.
First explored by miners from Illinois in the 1800s, this National Wild and Scenic River is marked by its stunning beauty, isolation, and excellent whitewater. The Kalmiopsis Wilderness is home to numerous unique plants, and much of the river flows through beautiful serpentine rock formations. Parts of the run pass through the remains of the enormous 2002 Biscuit fire, revealing the landscape's natural response of to wildfires.
The quality of the pool-drop rapids on this 31-mile section matches the rugged beauty of the canyon. The run begins with a few miles of Class II and III rapids. The first real challenges are encountered in the 3 miles between Panther Creek and Pine Flat, with many fun Class III and IV drops. Below Pine Flat the river eases up and there are numerous campsites. As the whitewater gradually picks up again over the next 5 miles, the campsites become scarce until you pass Deadman’s Bar and are committed to running the heart of the Illinois canyon. This 6-mile section is packed with Class III and IV drops and one infamous Class V, The Green Wall. Below this action packed section the river eases into Class II and III for the final 10 miles to Oak Flat. There are many good campsites along the lower section for those looking to spend another night soaking in the beauty and isolation of this wilderness gem.
A brief discussion of some of the notable rapids on this run follows, but please consult a river map for specific locations and information.