Difficulty I-II(III) at this flow (I-II(III) normally)
Length 6.5 Miles
Flow Range 300 - 2250 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago ~ 359 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 11/30/2019 4:12 pm

River Description

Quick Facts:

Location: NorthCentral IL, North of LaSalle, running into LaSalle.
Shuttle Length: 6 miles. (See details in "Directions" Tab.)
Character: Mostly a 'rural' feel (except as passing under I80, and while alongside massive quarry operation). Mostly open stream, with playwaves and a mini-canyon.
Drainage: 125 sq.mi. (at former gauge site near take-out).

Put-in is approximately 565' elevation.
Take-out is approximately 450' elevation.
Thus total elevation change is approximately 115'.

General Overview

Google Maps has excellent resolution aerials of this reach. We highly recommend going to the "Map" tab, clicking 'Satellite', double clicking near (not on, but near) the icon marking the mini-canyon, zooming to the maximum resolution (without losing image), and doing a 'virtual tour' to 'walk' down the reach. (There's not a lot to see above the mini-canyon, and satellite resolution fails the first half-mile of the run.)

Please respect privacy of property owner at put-in. Launch close to bridge.

This creek has a bit more substantial watershed than some of the other listed creeks in the area (Bailey, Cedar, Covel, Spring, Tomahawk), so has a better chance of being runnable. When 'up', it makes a fine companion piece for the commonly boated section on the main Vermilion.

Numerous small playwaves, and a class III triple-drop 'canyon'. Scouting Canyon Rapids is advisable, as it almost always has at least one strainer. Be alert for poison ivy on shore. Air quality (and water quality) can be 'iffy', as there is some quarrying and other heavy industry nearby.

Rapid Descriptions

Drainage: 75 sq.mi.

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Drainage area at our listed put-in is approximately 75 sq.mi. (as calculated via USGS StreamStats Beta software).

minor rock garden

Class - N/A Mile - 0.31
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Confluence with Tomahawk Creek

Class - N/A Mile - 1.8
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Coming in from river-left is Tomahawk Creek. If there is enough water in it for a run, it makes a slightly more exciting lead-in for the run on the Little Vermilion since the "Little V" has only minor rapids prior to this point, you'll have two very interesting drops on "the Tommy", and you'll still catch the main action (the 'canyon') on the Little V.

Not far downstream from this confluence, you'll pass under Interstate 80.

Civic Road / N.30th Road

Class - N/A Mile - 2.65
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
(Just a waypoint.)

Triple Drop 'Mini-canyon'

Class - III+ Mile - 4.35
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

About 0.1 mile after passing under a private bridge (to a quarry), the river makes about a 90-degree bend to the left. (On river-right, you'll see a side-creek spilling out across the rocks on shore.)

Get out to scout the mini-canyon from river left. (Watch out for poison ivy!) There are huge boulders in the stream forming three drops in quick succession in just over 0.1 mile here. At high water, this can be a real handful (especially if you are in a playboat rather than a downriver boat or creek boat).

old weir/dam

Class - II Mile - 4.8
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A small weir/dam might provide some play at some optimum water levels, but far more times may dish out danger. While never all that much of a drop, the boil line may trap those who do not successfully land a 'boof', keep perpendicular to the current, and paddle out of the boil.

Be prepared to scout and possibly portage. Very strongly advised not to run this unless you have enough people in your group who have throw ropes and experience in swift-water rescue techniques. Extracting a boater (or their boat, recirculating in the boil at the dam) requires equipment (throw ropes), knowledge, and skills to ensure not giving the river another victim!


default user thumbnail
Bob M
5 years ago

River guide for this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbfLI5zzoZI

default user thumbnail
9 years ago

Ran this in conjunction with the Tomahawk last weekend at high water. Awesome little river very scenic and a sweet Mini Canyon. Check ou the mini-canyon vid here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMb1h9j9MSw

default user thumbnail
Bix Bix
9 years ago

Ran again @ 2280 on 031310 with a friend. Nothing minor about any of the numerous rapids that day.

default user thumbnail
10 years ago

If having a rattle at the end of the snake makes it a rattlesnake then what I saw was in fact a rattlesnake. I was only three feet from it and rattlesnakes can go in the water. Thanks for the suggestion though.

default user thumbnail
Bix Bix
10 years ago

Great little Paddle. Ran this one this year @ 550 and again @ 180. I would love to try it out @ 1000.

default user thumbnail
10 years ago

Highly doubtful that was a rattle snake. Most likely a northern water snake. For more details and a list of snakes in IL by County. http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/animals_plants/herps/counties/lasalle.html

default user thumbnail
10 years ago

Watch out for rattlesnakes on the shore in or near the 'canyon'. I even had one follow me in to an eddy once. Ande Meyer

default user thumbnail
11 years ago

anybody lookin to paddle let me no i live by the big v and the little v give me a call or send me a comment see u on the river chad 815 481 2211

Gage Descriptions

The best gauge is on-site visual using a boater's gauge on the upstream face of the center pier of the first bridge south of I-80.
0.5' - minimum
1.5'-2.5' - optimum
4.0' - high

*The USGS gauge listed (for Big Bureau Creek at Princeton) may be used as a guide for possible runnability, since it may catch some of the same storm paths. That gauge lies about 24 miles almost due west of this run. Drainage area of the Little Vermilion at La Salle, very near the take-out for this run (thus including a few tributaries which contribute flow not present at the put-in) is 125 square miles. Drainage area of Big Bureau Creek at the gauge cited (at Princeton) is 196 square miles. Therefore, on average, one might expect flows on the Little V to be a bit under 2/3 (actually the ratio is 0.637755) the flow of the gauge cited.

Listed 'minimum' (300 cfs on Bureau Creek gauge, theoretically about 200 cfs on the Little V) is likely to indicate runnable levels. The listed 'maximum' (2250 cfs on Big Bureau, theoretically near 1500 on Little V) is likely to indicate levels 'above the norm'. While most of the Little V will be runnable to higher levels, the 'canyon' will become quite 'meaty', likely being a portage for many paddlers.

By the way, there may be a tendency to try to correlate runnability of the Little Vermilion with that of the (main) Vermilion. While the (main) Vermilion is often likely to be runnable when the Little V is, in general the gauges are not likely to actually correlate very well. The bulk of the watershed for the Vermilion is well to the east and south, and will often catch much different storm paths. Thus, Big Bureau should provide a somewhat more accurate correlation to the 'Little V'.

Gauge/flow analysis (for Big Bureau Creek), using data from 1936-03-01 to 2008-10-24
Minimum mean daily flow during stated period: 0 cfs (1953, 1940)
90% of time flow exceeds: 3.3 cfs
10% of time flow exceeds: 330 cfs
Maximum mean daily flow during stated period: 8,730 cfs (1994.06.24)
10/90 ratio ('flashy-ness'): 100.9 (under 3 is fairly steady, over 10 is quite 'flashy')

Average days per year over recommended 'low' threshold ( 300 cfs): 42
Average days per year over recommended 'high' threshold ( 2250 cfs): 1.66

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports






Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1199068 12/19/10 Rob Embed YouTube Video
1207328 03/11/17 Rob change embeded video
1213957 11/30/19 Rob updated description
1192301 02/09/09 n/a n/a
1208803 01/27/18 Rob minor edit (gauge analysis)
1211708 04/02/19 Rob updated image position