Bailey Creek, Illinois, US
|Usual Difficulty||I-II(IV) (varies with level)|
|Avg. Gradient||60 fpm|
|Max Gradient||70 fpm|
|VERMILION RIVER NEAR LEONORE, IL|
|usgs-05555300||8.50 - 12.00 ft||I-II(IV)||01h40m||~ 5.69 ft (too low)|
|Probably too low. (Requires on-site confirmation.) Reference gauge is for Vermilion, and is only an indicator of possible runnability.|
Location: 2 miles SouthEast from Oglesby, or 5 miles SouthEast from LaSalle.
Shuttle Length: usually carry-up, 2/3 of a mile. (See details in description below.)
Character: A steep (not quite vertical) waterfall, and runout.
Put-in is approximately 539' elevation.
Take-out is approximately 469' elevation.
Thus total elevation change is approximately 70'.
Bailey Creek is a tributary of the Vermilion. While it can be done on its own (using the put-in listed on this description name), the section above the falls is nothing but strainers with knee deep mud portages (I know from experience.) Thus, more often it is done as a side-trip while doing the run on the Vermilion.
Click here to see historic photo of Bailey Falls, as it was before it was modified.
Notice: Running Bailey Creek is illegal, as it involves trespassing on private (the cement company) property. While it may be possible to do so without being stopped, authorities have escorted kayakers off the adjacent land and threatened to press trespassing charges.
It's unfortunate that Bailey Creek was not part of the DNR lease arrangement that re-opened the Vermilion River a few years ago. There is no way to run Bailey Creek or Falls without trespassing on Buzzi Unicem property.
Look for the mouth of Bailey Creek on river left, a third of a mile downstream of Wildcat Rapid.
The hike up is about two-thirds of a mile on decent trail. The land is on Buzzi Unicem property.
From a gravel beach just past the mouth of the creek, go up the hill about seventy-five feet to a
dirt road. Turn right (yes, away from the creek) and go another eighty feet to a small path
ascending to the left. After 150 yards this path encounters a dirt road. Double back to the left
on this, and hike a quarter-mile to a fork in the path. The left fork here leads down to a large
culvert in the river (referred to in the river description below), therefore bear right at this
fork and continue another quarter-mile to the falls. (Partway along this stretch, a path/road
heads off to your right and sharply uphill. You do not want to go that way.)
There is about a hundred yards of whitewater leading up to the falls. Unless the creek is quite high, I wouldn't bother with it, it's just too scrapy.
Bailey Falls drops about twenty feet total, in a horse shoe waterfall. It is not quite vertical, perhaps 70 degrees or so. Before running it, take a good look at the landing zone. It is inches deep at best. Running it means trusting a small roostertail to cushion your impact. DO NOT pencil in on this one. A small, steep trail leads back to the top on river right for anyone wanting to carry up to run it again. Oh, and . . . there is not any easy or convenient way (on river-left, where you'll be) to get to the base of the falls. There are sheer walls surrounding the 'pool'. So, if you have carried your boat up to here and decide not to run the falls, you have to decide if you are comfortable lowering or tossing your gear into the pool below and either attempting to climb down or jump in after it. Otherwise, you will have to hike about 250 yards back downriver before the bluff diminishes enough that you can reach the river from river-left. Unfortunately, this gives you a very brief swift paddle before the serious hazard downstream at the culvert.
From the pool below the falls, there is a few hundred yards of ducking strainers and sweepers before the culvert. An ugly log jam completely blocks any reasonable possibility of running the culvert. No good eddy exists, so you must be very good and very careful to avoid the current pushing you hard and fast into the log jam. Generally this is portaged on river-right. Putting in below the culvert, at some flows there is a nice play hole in its outflow.
Downstream, several hundred yards of easy riffles lead to Pickup Rapid and the confluence with the Vermilion. There is a narrow channel between a river right rock and a rusted, jagged old vehicle laying in the creek bed. Stay as far right as possible, or portage this one, before continuing downstream on the Vermilion.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.0||Drainage: ~33 sq.mi.||N/A|
Drainage area at our listed put-in is approximately 33 sq.mi. (as calculated via USGS StreamStats Beta software).
It's not quite vertical, but pretty big and interesting (potentially intimidating). The landing zone is shallow, so have a good 'boof'.
Due to being completely blocked by trees, this culvert is a serious hazard. Significant flow leads toward the snags, so utmost care and control are needed to avoid disaster. (The 'class IV' rating is primarily to point out the danger of taking this too lightly. IF the trees were ever removed, this would be nothing more than a swiftwater lead-in and an easy hole to punch coming out of the culvert -- maybe class II.) Portage (usually on the right), then check for how playable the hole formed by the outflow from the culvert is.
This is the last bit of drop before encountering/returning to the Vermilion River. Rocks generally block river-right, and the frame and wheels of an old pickup truck lay in the riverbed to the left. (You DON'T want to mess with that!)