Start your trip at Isle la Cache. A museum there (open 10am-4pm Tu-Sa, 12-4 Su) offers information about the history of the area, and has a (no fee) canoe launch. Each year (usually about the second weekend of June) they have an "Island Rendezvous" in which re-enactors from all over the Midwest come and demonstrate what life was like for Native Americans and French fur traders in the 17th and 18th centuries. Come enjoy the "feasting, playing, and dancing". (See their calendar for other events.)
On the river, the steeper gradient (such as it is) lies in the half-mile downstream of the Hwy.7 bridge, so many boaters will just use that location for 'park-and-play' access.
For additional description, see Chicago Area Paddling and Fishing Guide.
Puting on at Isle a la Cache, you have multiple routes through braided channels. River right is the most common, and there are eddylines by the bridge abutment that are ideal for beginner practice. There is generally good current for the entire reach even at lower flows, but below 1000 cfs, expect to scrape in the wider areas. It's not hard to find riffles and eddys that are ideal for training purposes, but this is certainly not an action packed run.
After passing under the very large Route 7 bridge, follow the second channel from the left bank to get the most whitewater, which is a short set of waves and riffles that could swamp a canoe or rec kayak, but are pretty simple for decked boats. I'll call it class 2, but just barely. If you want to avoid the waves, use a channel further to the right.
After the rapids, an abandoned bridge marks the takeout. The best spot is on the upstream river right side. Avoid the temptation to ride the final riffles downstream of the bridge unless you want to travel several more miles to a boat launch at Briggs Street in Joliet, which is the next access.
Wildlife is very abundant through this stretch, and as of April of 2015, there was a large eagles nest on one of the islands a ways downstream of the put in. The take out is along a nature preserve where wetland birds flourish. It's amazing to see how much heavy industry and nature are intertwined along the river.
We are uncertain at this time of the best location for parking and river access, but we understand that boaters use this area to 'park-and-play' the best of the gradient of this reach.
The cited gauge is well upstream. While there is a gauge not far downstream in Joliet, it includes the flow of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal which is adjacent to, separate from, and comes in downstream of Fishnet Rapids.
By some reports, Fishnet is runnable over a very large range of flows, though certainly the degree of play will vary with flow.
Gauge/flow analysis (based on gauge data 1943-10-01 to 2008-09-30 )
Drainage area at gauge: 630 sq.mi.
Minimum mean daily flow during gauge period: 0.5 cfs ( 1953.10.21)
90% of time flow exceeds: 42 cfs
10% of time flow exceeds: 1,420 cfs
Maximum mean daily flow during gauge period: 9,180 cfs ( 1987.08.15)
10/90 ratio ('flashy-ness'): 33.8 (under 3 is fairly steady, over 10 is quite 'flashy')
Permits are not required for this reach.
Boaters wishing to focus on the best gradient may just do the final mile (more-or-less), so may not use the full shuttle route given below.
main drop ~1700cfs, 6/24/10
main channel, looking downstream to the main drop section ~1700cfs, 6/24/10
rolling waves on main channel before drop ~1700cfs, 6/24/10
looking upstream from main channel above the drop ~1700cfs, 6/24/10
looking across main channel to river left-most channel ~1700cfs, 6/24/10
looking upstream - main channel to right ~1700cfs, 6/24/10
Fishnet Rapids at 900 cfs
Looking upriver at rapids
Channel 2 (counting from river left),
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!