Illinois River Float Trips — What To Know and What To Pack

illinois-river-float-trip

Are you planning an Illinois river float trip sometime in the next few months? If so, then you are probably wondering what you need to know and what you need to pack in order to have a wonderful trip. There are so many different factors to consider when you plan a big Illinois river float trip. We’re going to go in-depth exploring all of your various options so that you may enjoy an excellent experience on your next Illinois river float trip.

The Rivers of Illinois

Illinois has long been one of the most popular places to go on a river float trip. This is because the abundance of navigable rivers that are found throughout the state. Not to mention, a few of the most popular rivers for recreation connect to the great lakes, more specifically Lake Michigan.

The major rivers of Illinois include the Fox River and Kanakee River, which connect to Lake Michigan. Other rivers include the Illinois River and the Spoon River which connect to the Upper Peoria Lake, which is southwest of Lake Michigan.

Another major lake in Illinois is Lake Springfield, which is near the center of Illinois. The Sangamon River is connected to that lake. There are also rivers that spur off of the bodies of water Rend lake, Carlyle Reservoir, and Crab Orchard Lake. Crab Orchard Lake is also connected with the Wabash River and the Ohio River.

Finally, on the Western border of Illinois is the great Mississippi River, and there are a number of rivers in Illinois that connect to the Mississippi River. These rivers include the Edwards River, the Green River, and the Big Muddy River.

What is a River Float Trip?

Most basically, an Illinois river float trip means traversing a river with a canoe, kayak, or inflatable raft. These three options will provide you with very different experiences as you travel down the river. Kayaks are the easiest to control because they are usually the lightest and are low, not lifting up very much off of the river water. Kayaks usually only carry one or two people, however. Canoes are also easy to control and can carry up to three people.

Finally, there is the river raft option. These rafts can be somewhat difficult to traverse the rivers in Illinois but are a really fun option if you are hoping to take your river float trip with a big group, a raft can be a great choice. Some rafts can fit up to nine people. Others can fit four or five.

Depending on which river you choose to float on, you can determine which boats will be best for you and your trip. You’ll want to consider who you are going on the trip with, what their physical needs and capabilities are, and your own experience. If you aren’t sure what the geography of a certain river is, or you don’t want to plan the details of your trip yourself, there are a number of outfitters you can choose from. We’ve outlined some of the most popular Illinois river float trip outfitters and provided you with all the details you’ll need to make the right choice for you.

When to Go on an Illinois River Float Trip

The most popular time of year to go on an Illinois river float trip is from Memorial Day to Labor Day, or the last weekend of May to the first weekend of September every year. This is when all of the Illinois river float trip outfitters are the most fully booked. But actually, many of the outfitters are open all year long.

There are many rivers in Illinois that remain navigable throughout the winter months. This can be an excellent option if you would prefer to enjoy the natural environment without many other people around you.

Choosing an Outfitter

If you decide that you want to go with an Illinois river float trip outfitter for your Illinois river float trip, there are a wide variety of factors to consider. You’ll want to think first about location. How far do you want to drive from your home to go on your trip?

How far is the outfitter from a major interstate? Is the river that you’ll be traveling down include landscapes and environments you’re interested in exploring?

From there, you’ll want to understand the length of the trips offered, what’s included on the trips, and what the costs are. You’ll want to write down the specific directions to the place where you are going, because sometimes GPS does not work as well in rural areas.

If possible reach out to your outfitter or ask over email for a specific packing list. There’s nothing worse than arriving to an Illinois river float trip and not having all of the supplies you need.

After that, just mark your calendar and get ready for your adventure. There’s so much to explore and enjoy along America’s open rivers.

 

9 Popular Illinois River Float Trip Outfitters

We’ve put together a list of some of the most popular and well-known Illinois river float trip providers. Under each heading you’ll find a list of the features and elements that will make your river float trip different than the last one you went on. Use the information below to select the right river float trip for you.

  1. Vermillion River & Vermillion River Rafting

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Credit to Vermillion River Rafting

Location

The Vermillion River Rafting company is located at 779 N 2249th Rd, Oglesby, IL 61348. Oglesby is about two hours and eleven minutes away from Chicago, IL in the south west. It is right outside of the Illinois River, one of the most popular rivers for float trips in Illinois.

But the Vermillion River Rafting company is located on an offshoot of the Illinois river, the Vermillion river. The Vermillion River is a long offshoot from the Illinois river that flows across Illinois. The Vermilion River Rafting company is located near the intersection of I-39, I-80, and I-180. The Vermillion River Rafting company is located south of Starved Rock State Park, Starved Rock Nature Preserve, and Mattheissen State Park.

These areas are known for their forests, canyons, prairie lands and wildlife sightings. Starved Rock State Park is home to historic landmarks and a beautiful lodge and cabin area. The state park is home to many exciting events throughout the year.

This makes the location of Vermillion River Rafting company a great one for excellent trips along the river.

Environmental Features

When you take a trip with the Vermillion River Rafting company, you will enjoy a true fisherman’s paradise. This means that there is a lot of diverse habitat throughout the river that makes it easy for fish to enjoy living in the river. You can expect to see wildlife in areas like eddies, slack pools, fallen trees, holes that extend many feet into the river beds and shorelines that are lined with rocks.

This River Rafting company offers trips that are whitewater. This means that the waters are choppy, and you’ll see the white crest of miniature waves as you traverse these rivers. River choppiness means that you are much more likely to get splashed or even tip over your boat, because the force of the current is so strong, it can be hard to navigate.

The Vermilion river is a rare river because it flows from the southern part of Illinois north to empty into the Illinois river.

The Route

The trip includes nine and a half miles with fourteen sets of whitewater rapids. They are predominately classified as 1’s and 2’s, meaning they aren’t particularly challenging.

It’s a good route for younger river rafters who are just getting going on their river journeys. It can definitely bring some thrills, with waves that can go up to three or even four feet. This company is a great choice if you’re looking for some fun outside of Chicago.

The Cost

The cost for the trip is thirty dollars for an adult, and twenty-five dollars for any children under the age of sixteen. The trip typically takes between three and four hours. They leave at 9:00 am and 1:30 pm each day during the season, which is from May first until mid-July. There may be more trips scheduled depending on the water levels.

 

  1. Cache Bayou Outfitters — WhiteCrane Canoes Inc.

Location

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Credit to White Crane Canoes

Cache Bayou Outfitters and WhiteCrane Canoes, Inc., is an Illinois river float trip operator that is found in the farthest south corner of Illinois. The raft trip operator is located near Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. This trip operator is found two hours and twenty-two minutes away from St. Louis, Missouri and two hours from Evansville, Indiana.

The location is also two hours and forty-four minutes away from Memphis. The location is south of the Shawnee National Forest, and northwest of Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Cache Bayou Outfitters is found within Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge and the Section Eight Woods Nature Preserve, just north of the Ohio River. The Cache Bayou outfitters give you access to the beautiful wetlands of the Cache River.

Environmental Features

The Cache River is home to cypress trees and an entire cornucopia of animal wildlife. Wildlife includes beaver, wild turkey, deer, and beaver. Other birds that you could potentially see on the Cache Bayou include herons, egrets, red-tailed hawks, bald eagle and migratory warblers. If you’re interested in fishing, you’re in the right place. The Cache Bayou includes the opportunity to go fishing for smallmouth bass, bowfin, crappie, catfish, and gar.

Cache Bayou Outfitters is nestled in the Lower Cache Basin, which is a treasured place that is home to thousands of migrating waterfowl. The area is home to a variety of birds that make this area their home in the winter. This makes for a true ecological treasure. It’s known as a U.N. site of “Wetland of International Importance”. There are over 60,000 acres of beautiful forests and wetlands to explore in this area.

The Route

WhiteCrane Canoes offers a variety of options if you are seeking to go on one of their tours. To start, you could simply rent boats, either a canoe or kayaks, and explore the waterways on your own. You can rent boats from the outfitters for four hours, eight hours, or a full day.

There are also a variety of tour options that you can explore with this company. They provide a standard tour which takes between 2-3 hours and is available every day. You can paddle through the waters of the Cache River.

You can also take the solo option for this tour and book a private experience through the unique bayou. Finally, they have an in-depth tour called the Cache Adventure tour. This is a nine mile adventure, and includes a visit to the visitors center at the Barkhausen-Cache River wetlands center.

The Cost

The price for renting a canoe is $35 for a half day and $45 for a full day. For a kayak it is $25 (half day) and $35 for a full day.

The tours range in price. The daily tour costs $35 for adults, $20 for teens, and $17 for youth. There are also discounts given for large groups. The Cache adventure tour includes a catered lunch and includes $70 for adults and $50 for teens.

 

  1. C & M Canoe Rentals

Location

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Credit to CandM Canoe Rental

C&M Canoe Rentals is found one hour and twenty-two minutes away from Chicago and one hour and thirty minutes away from Peoria, Illinois. The rental location is just off of I-80, to the north on state road 71. The rental company is found on the Fox River, which is an offshoot of the Illinois River. The Fox River branches at Ottawa, Il.

To find the Rental location, you’ll need to take exit 93 off of I-90 onto Highway 71. Travel on the highway for three miles going east until you find the C&M canoe sign on Wedron Road. Take your next left, then a right and you’ll find C & M Canoe Rentals.

Environmental Features

The Fox River is a popular choice for Illinois river float trips. There are many popular features found there, including a variety of dams and many birds and wildlife.

The Route

C&M Canoe Rental is a family owned and operated business who also operate the popular Fox River Tavern in Wedron, IL. You can explore the Fox River from their location for seven or twelve miles. There is also a two-day option that can last over twenty-one miles.

The Cost

The cost of the C&M Canoe Rental is fifty dollars for a seven- or twelve-mile trips. A two-day trip can last twenty-one miles and cost eighty-five dollars.

 

  1. Reed’s Kankakee River Canoe Trips

Location

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Credit to Reed’s Kankakee River Canoe Trips

Reed’s Kankakee River Canoe Trips are located at 7 N. Indiana Ave. in Kankakee, Il. Kankakee is a small town that is the home of Olivet Nazarene University, and just down the river from the Kankakee River State Park. This town is located one hour south of downtown Chicago and is right on the Kankakee River.

Environmental Features

The Kankakee River is one of the most pristine canoeing and kayaking streams that offers a great opportunity to observe wildlife and experience great fishing opportunities. Animals like deer, raccoons, beavers, as well as a wide variety of songbirds and waterfowl.

The Route

There are three trips offered by Reed’s Kankakee River Canoe Trips. The first trip is a twelve-mile journey that features the “Indian Caves”, which is a limestone canyon. The canyon is found on Perry Farm Park at Bourbonnais. The trip can last between three and five hours. The second trip is a shorter version of the first, a trip of only six miles.

The last trip is also twelve miles long, but it often takes longer than the first trip. The third trip includes narrow channels and small islands. Sandbars along the way can be used for swimming. The trip can take between four and six hours.

The Cost

The cost for the first and third trip is $68 for canoes and $78 for double kayaks, and $46 for a single kayak. The second trip, which is shorter, costs $62 for canoes, $72 for double kayaks, and $40 for a single kayak.

 

  1. Fever River Outfitters

    illinois-river-float-trip
    Credit to Fever River Outfitters

Location

Fever River Outfitters is located in Galena, IL, about two hours and forty-nine minutes away from Chicago. The Galena River is an offshoot of the Mississippi River, and Galena, IL is found north of the Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve.

Environmental Features

The Illinois river float trips offered by Fever River Outfitters take you through lush rural areas that are filled with wildlife and other great environmental features. There are often great blue herons spotted as well as gliding through romantic footbridges and visuals of Grants Park.

Another trip feature is the exploration of some beautiful backwaters of the Mississippi River. The trips offer the opportunity to learn about the historic character of this region, which was a significant steamboat destination in the early 1800s.

The Route

Again, there are three routes offered by the Fever River Outfitters. Two of them are around five miles long. There is then the option to do the entire route as one 10.25-mile-long route. The trip takes around five hours.

The second route includes paddling upstream on the backwaters of the Mississippi River. This can be quite challenging in the spring. That makes paddling between mid-June through September as the best times to take the routes.

The Cost

At Fever River Outfitters, you have the chance to rent Kayaks, Canoes, or Stand Up Paddle Boards. You can also take guided trips, rent the boats and drive them to the locations you’re interested in, or rent their shuttle, bringing your own boats and being transported to the locations. To learn more about prices, visit their website.

 

  1. Kayak Morris

Location

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Credit to Kayak Morris

There are two locations to Kayak Morris, one is about one hour from Chicago, right on the Illinois River. This location is also very close to Heidecke Lake, and south of I-80.

The other location of Kayak Morris is found very near Starved Rock State Park. This is about one hour and twenty minutes from Chicago. It is closest to Starved Rock Nature Preserve, with Buffalo Rock State Park right on the other side of the Illinois River.

Environmental Features

There are many special features to the area. Wildlife sightings include bald eagles, smooth softshell turtles, northern map turtles, Black headed Grosbeaks, and loons. It’s a slow flowing river that stretches over 24 miles, and there are no low head dams. You will be able to see the majestic St. Peters sandstone bluffs and deep canyons carved out along the shoreline.

The Route

There are two locations to Kayak Morris that include two different tour options. One option meets at the lone point shelter near starved rock state park. Another tour option includes a two-hour beginner kayak tour that can help you learn how to become a great kayaker. There are other options offered by Kayak Morris.

The Cost

The cost for the two-hour beginner kayak tour is $39 for a single kayak and $35 for a tandem kayak per person. For kids under 12 years old the cost is $25. The starved rock location costs $65 for the day or $55 for ½ a day. Those costs are ten dollars less for each additional rental if you book online.

 

  1. Kickapoo Adventures

    illinois-river-float-trip
    Credit to Kickapoo Adventures

Location

Kickapoo Adventures is found north of I-74 off of state road 32. The place is two hours and twenty-six minutes south of Chicago, an hour and thirty-nine minutes west of Indianapolis. Kickapoo Adventures is one hour and fifty-two minutes east of Springfield, Illinois.

Environmental Features

Kickapoo Adventures is found within the Kickapoo State Recreation Area. There are many other nature preserves around the area, and it’s located near the Middle Fork Vermilion River. Nearby, there are beautiful ponds called Clear Pond, Long Pond, and High Pond. It’s a beautiful area that is very popular for hiking, fishing, and camping. There are 57 types of fish, 45 types of mammals and 190 species of birds.

The Route

There are four options for renting boats and doing an Illinois river float trip with Kickapoo adventures on the Middle Fork Vermilion River. The upper section can be more challenging, depending on how many downed trees there are in the river. The lower section of the river is even more challenging and can include big waves. You can also take the upper and lower routes together. Finally, there is a more leisurely route option called the Salt Fork River.

The Cost

The cost for either the upper or lower section is $35 for canoes or kayaks, $25 for single kayaks, or $23 to $18 if you bring your own boat. If you’d like to do the two routes together, the cost for canoes/tandem kayaks is $50, and $40 for a single kayak. If you bring your own boat, the shuttle is $25.

 

  1. Fox Hollow Tubing

    illinois-river-float-trip
    Credit to Fox Hollow Tubing

Location

Fox Hollow Tubing is found at 2480 North 41ST RD in SHERIDAN, IL. That is about one hour and nineteen minutes away from downtown Chicago. This location allows for great access to tubing via Fox Hollow Tubing.

Environmental Features

If you decide to go on a tubing trip with Fox Hollow Tubing, you can also go camping upriver at Rolling Oaks Campground. Visitors enjoy the sandy and rocky beaches along the route.

The Route

You can go along the route throughout the day. If you’d like to go camping at Rolling Oaks Campground, you can make arrangements ahead of time. Fox Hollow Tubing will shuttle your tubes back and forth from their location.

The Cost

The cost of Fox Hollow Tubing is $20 for adults, $15 for kids, and $15 for cooler tubes that can hold up to a forty-eight-quart cooler.

 

  1. White Pelican, Inc.

    illinois-river-float-trip
    Credit to White Pelican

Location

White Pelican is found at 201 N. 2nd St., Oregon, IL, northwest of Chicago.

Environmental Features

This area offers beautiful tubing, paddleboarding, and canoeing when the Rock River is past flood stage. The scenic river includes many forests, beaches, and of course beautiful water.

The Route

There are many different trips offered with White Pelican that allow for you and your family to explore the wilds of this area.

The Cost

The cost of these routes depends on the details of the specific trip that you’re interested in.

 

So, if you’re looking for Illinois river float trips that are truly fun for your whole family, there are an abundance of options for you to explore. Wishing you the best river float trip!

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