Illinois River Rafting, Oregon
Secretly the Best Rafting Trip in the West!
Rafting the Illinois River
A 4-day Illinois River rafting trip takes paddlers through the remote and stunning Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area in Southern Oregon. The adventure starts before getting on the water with a spectacular drive into the Illinois River Canyon. Trips are intimate affairs limited to a total of 12 people (guides and guests).
Once on the water the river has consistent fun class IV and IV+ rapids throughout its 32 miles with one bigger class V rapid – Green Wall. When there is time to look around the scenery is dramatic with steep canyon walls, waterfalls always in site and a variety of unique flora including the carnivorous pitcher plant.
Nationally Protected River
The Illinois is also a nationally recognized Wild and Scenic River with crystal clear green-blue water. Due to its protections the group size is limited to 12 total people and only one commercial launch is allowed on any day. Guides who have run this stretch say it is hands-down their favorite commercial rafting trip. For those that know it’s big sister the class III Rogue River, the Illinois has a similar feel but of a more extreme remote nature. The most rugged wilderness multi-day rafting experience in the lower 48 states.
Illinois River Rafting Flows and Weather – Please Read!!!
The main challenge with the Illinois is the elements. The river typically flows in April and May when there can be periods of rain and cold. Historically 20% of trips are cancelled for flows being outside the ideal window. Cancelled trips are offered a refund or an opportunity to raft the Rogue River instead.
Illinois River Rafting Details
The Illinois River is probably the best multi-day commercial rafting trip in the United States due to the consistency of the rapids, the remoteness of the canyon, the lack of people and the scenery. The reason it is such a secret is that it only flows in April and early May when the weather can be cold. Trips typically get some rain and some people prefer to rent a drysuit for the trip to maximize the amount of fun they have on the water. Most people wear wetsuits and have a great time.
Illinois Rafting Itinerary
Meet at 8:00 pm the evening before the trip in Grants Pass, Oregon at the Holiday Inn Express. During the pre-trip meeting, the guides will distribute dry bags for packing your gear, review trip and shuttle information, and answer last-minute questions.
At the time designated during pre-trip meeting a van will transport the group from the Holiday Inn Express three hours to the put-in at Miami Bar. After a short safety and orientation briefing, you will launch on the river around noon. Illinois River rafting trips starts off with numerous fun class III and IV rapids which continue down to camp.
Days 2 and 3
A hearty breakfast and fresh coffee get each day started on the river before packing your dry bags and loading into the rafts. Illinois trips typically float 8 to 10 miles over 4 hours with multiple stops to visit old homesteads, scout rapids, and partake in a riverside lunch. Green Wall and the other big rapids of the gorge are typically run on the morning of day 3. However, flow variations can change the itinerary.
The last morning has some mellow rapids and beautiful scenery. Typically trips take-out before lunch and stop for an ocean side or redwood grove lunch during the 5 hour drive back to Grant’s Pass.
All the group camping and river-related safety equipment is included along with plenty of fresh food and snacks starting with lunch on the first day through lunch on the last day. There will be plenty of water but if you would like soda, beer, wine, or liquor with your dinner, please bring your own, (beer and soda in cans; wine in boxes or bags; hard liquor in glass bottles).
You are expected to supply your own camping and sleep gear. However, you can also rent tents, pads, and sleeping bags for the trip (prices can be seen in the facts above). Transportation from Grant’s Pass to the put-in point, and take-out point back to Grants Pass is included. Some people prefer to have their car shuttled to take-out (additional cost) so they can stay out on the Oregon Coast at the end of their trip. (see more information below).
Guides appreciate gratuities for their efforts. Typically, tips are around 10% to 15% of the trip cost and can be given to the head guide to be evenly distributed among the crew. That being said, the choice to tip is yours and depends upon your feelings about the trip and tipping in general as well as your financial means.
What to Expect
Making the most of your trip
We find people have the most fun when they are flexible. Rafting trips are an adventure and the guides are continually adjusting the days plans to make the most of each day as it is presented. It can be nice to leave your watch behind.
Weather in southern Oregon during the spring is varied. Trips typically have some rain showers with sun sprinkled into the days. Highs are in the 60/70’s and lows in the 40’s. Water temperature is in the 50’s. Being prepared with layers and good rain gear will make any experience of rain an enjoyable part of the trip.
Boats & Group Size
Your main form of transport will be oar/paddle combination rafts. The oar/paddle combination raft is 14 feet long and carries 2-4 people who paddle plus a guide in the back with oars. There will be a couple of 16 ft oar rafts to transport all the gear. Normally 4 boats travel together, and group sizes can be up to 8 guests, maximum.
Whether you’re an experienced camper or it’s your first time under the stars, river camping is an enjoyable and relaxing camping experience. Everyone participates in setting up and breaking down camp. A clean, private camp toilet is set up by the guides first thing upon arrival at camp and it is the last thing to be dismantled the next morning.
There will be plenty of healthy tasty food on the trip. A full breakfast with cowboy coffee gets the day going. A riverside picnic sets the scene for lunch. Dinners can be anything from a steak, grilled filet of salmon, or a Mexican feast and may be followed by a hot, Dutch oven dessert. There are plenty of snacks and water available throughout the day. Alcoholic beverages are not included, but you are welcome to bring your own. When signing up for the trip you will have an opportunity to share any special dietary requirements.
Packing for your trip
You will be provided with a suggested packing list after signing up for the trip. The key equipment is good river footwear and clothing that protects you from the rain and the sun. Proper rain gear will make it a much more joyful experience if it does. Here are some rain gear, footwear, and other clothing options we recommend.
Due to the potential for cold days and cold water many people prefer to rent a drysuit for their Illinois rafting trip. Drysuits are waterproof one piece suits with latex seals at the neck, wrists and ankles to keep almost all water out. Under the drysuit fleece layers are worn for insulation. Drysuits are much warmer than a wetsuit and are particularly nice on the 2nd third and fourth mornings when wetsuits are still a little damp in the morning. For approx. $175/week you can rent a drysuit from Pacific River Supply at 510-223-3675 or $200/week from Immersion Research). Both companies will mail them to you in a box that you use to return them after the trip.
Getting There and Away
Many people that live on the west coast drive to Grant’s Pass. Find your driving time to the meeting location at the Holiday Inn Express.
Thirty miles south of Grants Pass is Medford, Oregon the location of the closest airport. Galice Resort (541-476-3818) provides van transportation between the airport to Grants Pass. Due to potential delays, it is not recommend to fly out of Medford the evening the trip ends.
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As a former river who has rafted many rivers in the West, I was completed blown away by the Illinois.
Incredible scenery, fun whitewater, narrow gorges, the most beautiful water I’ve seen. Not to mention epic camping and drive back along the Oregon Coast…
I will return.