Difficulty I-II(IV) at this flow (I-II(IV) normally)
Length 1.15 Miles
Flow Range 8.50 - 12.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago ~ 9.03 [FT] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 04/02/2019 12:55 am

River Description

Quick Facts:

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'.

General Overview

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.

Note that what we presently see and know as Bailey Falls is not a natural formation, but the result of quarrying. 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.

Rapid Descriptions

Drainage: ~33 sq.mi.

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Drainage area at our listed put-in is approximately 33 sq.mi. (as calculated via USGS StreamStats Beta software).

Bailey Falls

Class - IV+ Mile - 0.6

It's not quite vertical, but pretty big and interesting (potentially intimidating). The landing zone is shallow, so have a good 'boof'.


Class - IV Mile - 0.88
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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.

Pickup Truck

Class - III Mile - 1.14
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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!)


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1 year ago

YAHOOOO!!!! ********************************************************************************************************************* As of Oct.25, 2018, the state of Illinois has purchase the BUZZI UNICEM property to add it to Matthiessen State Park and Starved Rock State Park. ********************************************************************************************************************* http://www.newstrib.com/free/springfield-acquires-buzzi-property-for-million-video/article_203e37f8-d89a-11e8-9a7e-e72ef52ec0d6.html?fbclid=IwAR0Ry4xcff6cheH1HIIlR43f0OufMURYJNTq1rcGbVIXW5ddXwhac7Qpd2E ********************************************************************************************************************* The above article does say "The project will indeed bring Bailey’s Falls, Wildcat Rapids and a number of ponds and wooded areas into the public domain, along with expanding access to the Vermilion River for boating and rafting. It will be some time before the public can set foot in any of the newly-acquired areas. Kerry Novak, complex superintendent for Starved Rock and Matthiessen, said the agency will have to conduct a number of time-consuming assessments to ensure wildlife is protected and to minimize risks to human safety. “They’re going to have to be patient,” he said. “It’s going to take a couple of years to get in there.”"

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12 years ago

At 14 ft. the landing on Baily falls becomes a nice pillow. The lead up is not too bad as there are only a few rifts to deal with. If you drive far to the right, you will be able to hit a launching pad, get some air and land under the veil formed by the cascade coming off the right wall. If you have a vivid imagination, you can pretend that you are on the launching pad on the final pitch of, "Skyscraper" as you get launched, and then, "Gorrilla" as you go under the veil. Then you can get back to reality as you go into Olgelsby and hang out at Mr. Salsa and talk about how Roy barely missed the old tires, garbage and logs floating around in the bottom re-circ. MM

Gage Descriptions

This run is best done as a carry up from the Vermilion, when the Vermilion is running high, five feet at the bridge or more.

* Gauge referenced is the USGS gauge on the Vermilion, which should be over 8.5' (~3000 cfs) for Bailey to be running well.
Stage (feet) reading is used here, because the gauge (cfs) reading would obviously be meaningless for the creek.

Directions Description

This is virtually always done as a carry-up while running the Vermilion, therefore see details in the 'River Info' tab for the (carry-up) 'shuttle'.

No Accident Reports





David McGovern




Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1192419 12/21/08 David McGovern n/a
1197167 06/10/15 David McGovern
1196896 12/13/09 Rob Change feature photo to animated gif
1204710 06/12/15 David McGovern Fixed typo's, improved clarity
1211693 04/02/19 Rob updated image position
1209082 03/19/18 Rob fix broken link