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Difficulty I(II)
Length 5.7 Miles
Flow Range 150 - 1000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 243 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 07/17/2015 11:45 am

River Description

A flatwater stretch is punctuated by a couple of dams which could provide some play at certain levels, far more often may prove a serious hazard to the unwary. Notably, at levels around 1000 cfs, the dam at Hammel Woods may look rather easy to the inexperienced boater (it looks like only a couple inches to maybe a foot of drop). What the novice boater may not notice is how far downstream the water 'boils back' toward the face of the dam. Anyone out of their boat (or anyone in their boat who fails to stay upright and paddle all the way through the boil) will be sucked back toward the dam and will be recirculated with little likelihood of getting out. There is a 'chute' tight to the left bank which could be the best runnable spot at a fair variety of levels, but again, we do not recommend running any low-head dam without full knowledge, awareness of the danger, and proper safety precautions (persons on shore with throw-ropes).

Reportedly, the forest preserve police have ticketed folks who paddle over the dam.

 Other than this, we have very little detailed, first-hand information regarding the rest of this reach. If you have run this reach, please help out your fellow boaters by going to the "Comment" tab and using the "Add a Comment" button which appears there (for all registered, logged-in users of this website).

Rapid Descriptions

Dam (portage)

Class - N/A Mile - 0.62
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We highly recommend you do not run this dam. At many flows, the nasty reversal will not release a boat and boater. We have reports that if you are caught running this, you will be ticketed.

apparent dam

Class - II Mile - 1.2
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May offer some play? (We have no specific info about whether or what degree of play is available or what flows are best here. We welcome your input!)


It may be possible to 'park-and-play' this spot, or use this location as an alternate put-in, as there appears to be park land on one or both sides of the river.

Apparent shoals

Class - I Mile - 1.8
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There appears to be a small ledge or shoals (or old broken dam?) at this location. On river-left, there is "Shorewood Park", which could offer alternate put-in, or park-and-play if/when flows are correct to afford play opportunities here. (We have no specific info about whether or what degree of play is available or what flows are best here. We welcome your input!)

Large Island

Class - N/A Mile - 2.2
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A large island splits the flow. There may be some interesting shoals, compression waves, or areas of interesting currents (particularly where the two channels rejoin). (Or not.)


(We have no specific info about whether or what degree of play is available or what flows are best here. We welcome your input!)


Class - N/A Mile - 3.85
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(Just a 'mile marker', for your reference.)

Possible shoals start

Class - N/A Mile - 5
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As the river makes a near approach to the railroad and takes a northward (NE) bend, it appears it may begin a sequence of shoals which could offer some nice 'splishy-splash' waves.


Class - N/A Mile - 5.34
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Be aware that bridge piers here may accumulate wood (large branches and whole trees).

Possible shoals end

Class - N/A Mile - 5.6
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Whatever shoals may exist appear to peter out as the river approaches W.Shepley Road.


Class - N/A Mile - 5.75
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Just past the recommended take-out there is a small island at low-to-moderate flows. It appears likely that it will be covered at higher flows. There may be a fine wave-train to the right.

I&M Trail Dam (portage)

Class - N/A Mile - 10.22
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For anyone extending their trip on this river, there is a large dam which must be portaged.


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Daniel Murphy
1 year ago

Two death drownings at Hammel Woods damn.

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Daniel Murphy
6 years ago

The "normal" putin just below Hammel Woods dam is returned following some improvement activities. This river was used for the 2013 CWA Beginner I trips at around 1,000 cfs and was very good. I would take a beginner trip on this stretch up to 2, 000 cfs. I've seen it at 8,000 and would NOT take a beginner on it at that flow. I'll keep posting as my experience base grows.

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Daniel Murphy
7 years ago

This river is used by the Chicago Whitewater Association for their entry level Beginner I river trips. Check out CWA's web-site for more information. The "normal" put in at Hammel Woods is not available spring 2013 due to reconstruction work. An alternate put-in at the pedestrian bridge in the little park in Shorewood works well also. This river has been used for instruction from a low of around 200cfs up to 600cfs, and is usable for a teaching river up to 2000 cfs and provides a venue for stroke work, eddie work, ferrying, and other ACA Course Level 3 type teaching. The normal take-out for the CWA trips is at the Shepley Road bridge (see map) just before the island/constriction at mile 5.8. CWA typically does not go all the way the the take-out shown on the map.

Gage Descriptions

Best levels for runnability (and/or playability) are not currently known. 
If you have information about best flows for features on this reach, please use the "Comment" tab, "Add a Comment" button. 

Based upon the most recent ten years historical data:
the 10% flow is 820 cfs (10% of the time, flow is at or above this value)
the 90% flow is 147 cfs (90% of the time, flow is at or above this value)
This gives a 10/90 ratio of 5.58, which suggests only moderately flashy stream (I.E., flow is moderately stable).

Directions Description

Numerous alternative put-in and take-out locations exist which would allow shorter trips than the listed put-in/take-out. A very likely choice may be to end the trip at Shepley Road, making a trip of 5.6 miles from the listed put-in. There also may be locations for 'park-and-play' without the need of a shuttle.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2020-06-29 n/a Near Miss/Rescue Inexperience Read More
2019-04-01 n/a Fatality Inexperience Read More
2015-06-16 High Near Miss/Rescue High Water Read More







randy hetfield


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1195323 06/04/09 Rob
1195347 06/06/09 Rob Add feature/mile-marker locations.
1205100 07/17/15 Rob modify length/take-out (per comments)
1197722 05/24/10 Rob Correct mileage figures.
1194556 04/16/07 randy hetfield n/a
1195322 06/04/09 Rob