Fox (Illinois R. trib.) - D) Yorkville: Marge Cline Whitewater Course at Bicentennial Riverfront Park (PnP)

Fox (Illinois R. trib.), Illinois, US


D) Yorkville: Marge Cline Whitewater Course at Bicentennial Riverfront Park (PnP)

Usual Difficulty I-II (varies with level)

Center Wave Mid January 2011

Center Wave Mid January 2011
Photo by John Sexton taken 01/08/11 @ low runnable level

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-05551540 250 - 3200 cfs II 02h25m 1800 cfs (running)
Playable, but generally higher than optimum. (We welcome further input to fine-tune characterization of features at various flows.) Gauge (1732 sq.mi. drainage) is 10 miles upstream. Flow in course may be slightly regulated by stop blocks at head of course. New gauge to be installed at site

River Description

Quick Facts:

Location: Downtown Yorkville (Approximately 12 miles southwest from Aurora, 50 miles southwest of downtown Chicago).
Shuttle Length: Carry up (park-and-play)
Character: "Playpark" in a constructed channel around a dam on a fairly large watershed river (therefore almost always at least some playable flow).

General Overview

The 1100' long channel contains two separate channels -- one being class I-II (to allow recreational canoes and kayaks to safely bypass the dam), the other channel being a "challenge" channel containing one or two class II-III features to allow whitewater boaters a place to practice and play. In all fairness (and in the interests of full disclosure), this is not a multi-featured full-length course (like the East Race in South Bend, Indiana or the whitewater course in Wausau, Wisconsin). It is primarily a canoe-bypass and fish ladder, and a couple of relatively mild playspots. However, it is a wonderful and convenient place for Greater Chicago area (N.E.Illinois) boaters to go play in moving water with playable features, especially since it 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 (buildings/retail/concessions) are anticipated to allow for this to become an even better training grounds for prospective whitewater boaters in the Northern Illinois area.

There is a parking lot adjacent to the course on the South side of the river, East of Hwy.47.

The background on this facility is that the dam at this location has been responsible for more than a dozen deaths, including three Memorial Weekend, 2006 (at a level around 2250 cfs). So, during the winter of 2008/2009 the dam was reconstructed (so as to not create such a 'killer hydraulic'). Summer/fall 2009 (continuing into 2010) saw construction on an adjacent bypass channel, both as a fish ladder, and as a whitewater playpark..

See the Marge Cline Whitewater Course page on the Yorkville Website for more details on this facility.

A pdf on the overall design of the dam and bypass is available at Chicago Whitewater.

A fine article (with photos of boaters in the course) may be found at Dec.2010 Illinois Outdoor

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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-08-24 20:48:07

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
August 30 2013 (1064 days ago)
st1lldancyn (155263)
Thanks to fellow ACA instructor Jeff B. for providing a good description of the Marge Cline
Whitewater Park: "It is better than 'Better than Nothing.'" This is evidenced by the fact that
folks have driven four hours from St. Louis to paddle it. When I asked, they told me it's worth the
drive when they have a whitewater jones going and the St. Francis isn't running. Living a mere 30
minutes away, it is a great place for locals like me to practice basic skills. People often drive
up to two hours to paddle the run, but those living six hours away may find the trip not worth it.
There has been great debate as to what rating this run is. Using the rating guidance contained on
the AW site, I would offer my opinion that it is a Class I+ run. Why? People who intend to simply
bomb it still require some corrective strokes to stay in the current. However, the squirrelly
eddies and difficult waves may elevate certain features to Class II if attempting to do more than
simply bomb the course. I've seen more than one Class IV+ paddler roll back up with a surprised
look on their face, as if to say 'what the hell was that?' when they let their guard down. Being an
engineered course it is relatively very safe; however, folks should not forget it is still a wild
river and swimmers should exercise due caution (i.e. defensive swimming) if they find themselves
out of their boats. The course begins at "entrance wave" (none of these are official, but are what
I call them) that at low flows can be used for surfing and flat spinning. At flows above around
1200-1500 the wave washes out. It is usually too shallow to do anything vertical. It actually
becomes more retentive as flow drops. Just down stream of entrance is an island. River left of the
island is "second wave" which, depending on flow, my allow some flat surfing. On river right of the
island is "play wave", a feature that is playable and changes its dynamics over a wide range of
flows. People have been known to throw a loop here, but it takes some effort to find the sweet
spot. The left and right flows come together and form into "middle wave", just upstream of the
pedestrian bridge that crosses over the run. The "middle" is a Class I feature that occasionally
offers some surf opportunity if one can catch one of the sweet spots. After the middle another
island splits the run. Although the river right channel was supposed to the challenge route, it
offers not much for the whitewater paddler. The river left channel also offers little except the
opportunity to practice catching eddies. The bottom offers bow stall and stern squirt
opportunities. The Marge Cline course is used by the Chicago Whitewater Association for Beginner I+
courses, and also by private outfitters such as The Yak Shack and Geneva Kayak as a venue for
lessons. However, the best use of the course is not as a teaching venue, but as a learning venue:
Those who have taken a beginner course and are proficient in self-rescue will find the challenging
eddy lines and variations of waves a great place to develop skill and build proficiency. A beginner
who takes a few trips to Yorkville, particularly with the assistance of a mentor, will find their
skill and confidence rise rapidly. The run is open year round. Although the river freezes over up
and downstream, water flows through the run continuously. Even when flow is so low that no water
flows over the accompanying dam, water will flow through the run. As always, paddle with a buddy.

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