Fox (Illinois R. trib.), Illinois, US
|Usual Difficulty||I-II (varies with level)|
|Avg. Gradient||10 fpm|
|Max Gradient||10 fpm|
|FOX RIVER AT YORKVILLE, IL|
|usgs-05551580||250 - 3200 cfs||II||01h49m||1050 cfs (running)|
|Perhaps optimum playable flows. (We welcome further input to fine-tune characterization of features at various flows.) Gauge (1804 sq.mi. drainage) is at this location. (Note: Total flow is split between dam and the course except at lowest flows.)|
Location: Downtown Yorkville (Approximately 12 miles southwest from Aurora, 50 miles southwest of downtown Chicago).
Shuttle Length: Carry up (park-and-play)
Character: Free "playpark" in an engineered channel around a dam on a fairly large watershed river.
In the interest of full disclosure, it should be made clear that this is not a 'full-length' multi-featured whitewater course like the East Race in South Bend, Indiana (at ~2090' long) or the Wausau Whitewater Park in Wisconsin (at ~1930' long). This is a canoe-bypass and fish ladder, and a couple of playspots. That disclaimer given, it is a wonderfully convenient place for N.E.Illinois (and perhaps S.E.Wisconsin) boaters to paddle moving water with playable features, and is likely to hold sufficient flow to be boatable almost 24/7/365! (OK, a bit of exaggeration -- it should have adequate flow all summer for at least some mild play, but it is likely to ice-up and be unavailable in the thick of winter.) Additional facilities in the 'Bicentennial Riverfront Park' (buildings/retail/concessions) make this a fine training area for beginner-whitewater boaters, and allow more experienced boaters a chance for a close-to-home workout during the week, between trips to more challenging rivers.
There is parking adjacent to the bottom of the course (on the South side of the river, East of Hwy.47), and a more limited amount of parking at the top of the course. (Boaters generally should not park in the lot at the Yak Shack unless they are using the services or equipment available there.)
The major impetus for construction of this facility was that the former dam at this location was responsible for more than a dozen deaths, including three Memorial Weekend in 2006 (at a level around 2250 cfs). During the winter of 2008/2009 the dam was reconstructed (so as to not create a 'killer hydraulic'). Summer/fall 2009 (continuing into 2010) saw construction of the adjacent bypass channel as a fish ladder, downriver canoe bypass, and as a whitewater playpark.
The ~1100' long course was initially designed to contain two separate channels -- one being more tame and straight-forward to allow downriver paddlers (flatwater canoes and recreational kayaks) to safely bypass the dam (and allow fish-passage upstream and down), the other being a "challenge" channel containing one or two more difficult features (class II-III) to allow whitewater boaters a place to practice and play. The implementation is not so much separate channels as it is a single channel, with rock-islands splitting the flow in two locations, creating a few choices of routes.
As with many man-made channels and engineered courses, there are strong currents and some squirrely eddy lines, so even well-experienced paddlers may find themselves challenged to roll when flipped by the currents. Being an engineered course it is relatively safe; however, folks should not forget it is still real water, real current, and real rocks, so swimmers should exercise appropriate caution (i.e. defensive swimming) when they find themselves out of their boats.
There is an annual Illinois Whitewater Festival (IWF) with a Cardboard Regatta provided by the Yorkville Chamber on Friday evening, and a Buttercup Slalom Series & Boatercross sponsored by World Kayak on Saturday. This happens about the middle of July, in conjunction with a "Ribs on the River" event.
A pdf on the overall design of the dam and bypass is available at Chicago Whitewater.
An article (with photos of boaters in the course) may be found at Dec.2010 Illinois
The following YouTube video shows the 'final test' of the course, October 13, 2010, at just shy of 500 cfs.
The following shows some additional play, at 700 cfs.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
At lower flows, this offers surfing and flat spins galore. At flows above around 1200-1500 the wave washes out. At optimum flows, the feature should allow cartwheels and loops, though at other flows it can be somewhat shallow, so attempting vertical moves may find bottom-contact (depending on where you initiate, and your boat and technique). The feature actually becomes more retentive as flows drop.
Just down stream of the entrance is a rocky island.
River-left of the island is "Second Wave" which (depending on flow) may allow some flat front-surfing.
On river-right of the island is "play wave". Experienced playboaters may be able to throw a loop here, but it takes some effort to find the sweet spot. At many flows, the 'pocket' tends to be too narrow/tight for most boaters to be able to get sideways (to side-surf) or to spin.
As the left and right flows come together, they form "middle wave" just upstream of the pedestrian bridge that crosses over the run. This feature occasionally offers some surf opportunities, if one can catch one of the sweet spots.
Downstream of the pedestrian bridge, another rocky island splits the run. Although the river right channel was supposed to be the "challenge route", it offers not much for the whitewater paddler. The river left channel also offers little except some opportunity to practice catching eddies. The bottom of the course (as the flow meets the waters of the main river-channel below the dam) may offer bow stall and stern squirt opportunities.