Difficulty I(II) at this flow (II normally)
Length 3.75 Miles
Flow Range 300 - 2000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 110 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 04/02/2019 1:02 am

River Description

Quick Facts:
Location: Joliet, IL.
Shuttle Length: 4.2 miles. (See details in "Directions" Tab.)
Character: In town run, though most of the early going is wooded parks, you come out past homes, and finish within vertical cement walls (before the confluence with Des Plaines River).
Drainage area: approximately 107 square miles (at gauge at Richards Street).

Put-in elevation is approximately 580'.
Take-out elevation is approximately 505'.
Thus total elevation change is approximately 75'.

Information (lat, lng, elev, total drop, run length, shuttle length) adjusted and/or verified from best manual extrapolation of online data (via maps.google.com, distance measuring tool, and other resources). 2009.03.12

Paul Bowman provides (2009-03-18):
Hickory has been one of my favorites for almost 12 years. I usually put in below the dam at Pilkcher Park. There is a lot of parking and then follow trail below the dam to the creek. With water levels above 300cfs (minimum) you get some good 2ish boogie water. When you enter the concrete canyon, Spring Creek will be on your right.

The first drop with the great surf has been called "Upper Synthetic" and the surf spot below old Richards Street bridge "Lower Synthetic". About 10 years ago the water reclamation department had the creek bed majorly altered. Most of the gradient was directly below the I-80 bridge. A contrator with large rock chewing machines removed a 4' thick layer of creek bed. Directly below I-80 there was a great foamy wave. They removed the creek bed all the way up to where Upper Synthetic (man made) was formed.

Brad Klimkowski provides (2009-03-17):
I have been this river on a few occasions; unfortunately river levels were drastically different each time. My first time down Hickory I scraped my way down at around 200 cfs and found almost no worthwhile whitewater features other than at the feature that is labeled “The Squeeze” (which is an excellent name for it by the way, whoever put this creek on here, and I would love to see it stick).

My second time down I managed to get on Hickory Creek at about 2,000 cfs and found relatively quick current most of the way punctuated by the occasional small side surf wave. The highlight of this trip, once again, was at The Squeeze. The added water generated a very large green wave. My third attempt was at about 4,000 cfs and after scouting this feature and a few other spots on the river my friend and I decided that it was just too flooded and not worth the risk.

The Squeeze is actually located in a channelized portion of Hickory Creek and is generated by five foot tall wing dams on each side, squeezing the water together into a V-shaped wave. At 2,000 cfs these wing dams do have water going over them and their hydraulics should be respected. Fortunately these dams do not occupy that much of the river and are very easy to avoid. They also form the eddies necessary to surf this wave more than just “on the fly.” I would suggest that this feature should be considered a Class III at the listed maximum level or above. Directly upstream of this feature (approximately 200 feet), before the river becomes channelized, is a river wide hole that is very side surfable and gets larger as the water level rises.

Keep in mind a few things when approaching these features: very few eddies exist upstream of these two features. If you swim at any of these two features you will be in for a decent float before you can get out of the water, let alone collect your gear, due to the channelized nature of the river at this point. Portage and scouting is possible here, but you will find yourself in people’s backyards in a questionable neighborhood, so be discrete.

The put-in I used was downstream of the dam in Pilcher Park. This run is also described in Bob Tyler’s book, Canoeing Adventures in Northern Illinois: Apple River to Zuma Creek.

Thanks, guys!

Note: Throughout the channelized, walled-in section of river, crews periodically (at low water) drive up the river with heavy equipment to remove large woody debris (trees) which may accumulate on bridge piers and such. Be aware that the upper part of this run (where the crews do not reach) is subject to having massive deadfall which may make passage in some areas quite difficult and hazardous.

Rapid Descriptions


Class - N/A Mile - 0

While there appears (via Google satellite view) to be one apparent spot of potential whitewater interest upstream of this dam, it is generally preferred to put-in below the dam. Parking is available upstream a ways, however, portaging the dam is very awkward due to fencing (on river-right) and a short but very steep scree-covered railroad embankment (river left). Running the dam is very strongly not recommended. At most flows, there will be very little water flowing over all but a center notch, where it falls hard onto a splash block.

Initiation Rips

Class - II Mile - 0.02
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Downstream of the dam, the width of the river is compressed as it heads toward a railroad bridge. At higher flows a fine surfable wave occurs before the flow piles into a bridge-pier.


Downstream of the railroad (again, at high flows) water swirls and boils in a deep pool. Whirling vortex currents appear and dissipate.


Class - II Mile - 0.08
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Following the swirling waters in the deep pool below the railroad tracks, there is a rocky shoals which may create some riffles and waves (though it may 'wash out' substantially at higher flows).

Possible ledge/shoals

Class - Mile - 1.36
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

(Info via Google aerial reconnaisance only) There appears to be a small ledge/shoals at this location. It is not known whether this creates playable whitewater features at boatable flows.

Apparent ledge

Class - Mile - 1.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

(From Google aerial reconnaissance) There appears to be a ledge at this location.

Ledges and "The Squeeze"

Class - III Mile - 2.63

Alas, this has reportedly been removed, leaving nothing of interest here. (Some folks call that progress.) Those who have done the run can look at the photo and reminisce. All others can see what you missed.

USGS Gauge, Old Richard Street Waves

Class - II+ Mile - 3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The USGS gauge is at Richards Street. Just past this, Old Richard Street crosses the river, and the flow spills across cement under that bridge. Two bridge piers split the flow into three channels. The left and right channels are prone to be pourovers at low/moderate flows, while the center channel will have a fine wave and wave-train. Repeat play is possible.

Possible rockdam wave

Class - Mile - 3.09
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

(Info via Google aerial reconnaisance only) There appears to be a small rockdam at this location. It is not known whether this creates playable whitewater features at boatable flows.

Railroad Bridge Pier Narrows

Class - II Mile - 3.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Another bridge pier and area of cement riverbed may possibly allow a bit of play (at the right flows).


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10 years ago

On a recent outing, as we prepared to put in, a 'concerned citizen' stopped to inform us that she had inquired about the legality of paddling (her recreational kayak on the waters above the dam) and was told it was illegal! We thanked her, watched her drive away, and proceeded with our run. As we approached our take-out, so too did a police car. They greeted us and said they had received a call about a couple kayakers 'in trouble' in the river. (Some other 'concerned citizen' had, no doubt, noticed us playing at 'the squeeze' or somewhere else, and evidently didn't watch long enough to see we were INTENTIONALLY getting in (and out of) the features.) We assured the officers that we were well experienced, and at no time had we been in trouble, and thanked them for their (and the citizen's) concern. They were quite friendly and shared some additional chatting before heading off on their way (with no hint of admonishment whatsoever about our having boated the river).

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10 years ago

According to the USGS site for this gauge: "The concerned citizen's and emergency manager's response to the potential loss of this streamgage has been incredible. Thanks to all of you, we believe we now have the necessary funding to continue the operation of this gage. FYI, this gage will now be funded through the following partnership: USGS National Streamflow Information Program NSIP; Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Office of Water Resources; Joliet Township (Mr. Daniel Vera, Supervisor)"

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David McGovern
10 years ago

Not too many folks pay attention to Hickory creek, but it does deserve notice. Unfortunatly, the gauge is going to be shut down, and so I have been trying to work out some corelations. Just to the north and parallel to Hickory is Long Run Creek running through Lemont. Erik, Rich and myself ran it one day and it was fun but not worth doing again. However, it does have a USGS gauge that is not losing it's funding. After expanding the USGS graphs of both creeks to 60 days, I noticed that both creeks have VERY similar patterns, and they showed two easy relationships. Hickory reads about ten feet higher than Long Run, and has about three times the flow. These are not exact, but pretty close considering how simple they are. And as far as flows go, we scraped down at 175 cfs once, it was still fun but I would call that a minimum. At 700, there was some good play at the Squeeze, a formation at the top of the Concrete Canyon.

Gage Descriptions

According to the USGS website,
"The concerned citizen's and emergency manager's response to the potential loss of this streamgage has been incredible. Thanks to all of you, we believe we now have the necessary funding to continue the operation of this gage. FYI, this gage will now be funded through the following partnership:
USGS National Streamflow Information Program NSIP
Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Office of Water Resources
Joliet Township (Mr. Daniel Vera, Supervisor)"

The USGS gauge is at Richards Street, which is about 1.4 miles upstream from the mouth (the confluence with the Des Plaines River). Being on this reach, the gauge will be very accurate at showing the actual flow in the reach.

'Minimum Suggested Level' is 175 cfs. The creek is runnable but quite a scrape at this level. Play will be possible at least at one or two spots. Runnability (or playability) is far better at levels around 600 cfs. Anyone with additional recommendations regarding minimum/optimum levels is encouraged to provide input via the "Comments" tab.

'Maximum Suggested Level' is strictly to represent levels 'above the norm'. Anyone with suggestions for maximum level (for average boaters to have a reasonably safe whitewater experience) is encouraged to provide input via the "Comments" tab. Especially welcome are any special concerns (low bridges, etc) which may arise at higher levels. Keep in mind that generally, our 'suggested maximum' represents a level above which the usual, normal description of the river no longer applies, and features and consequences are likely to kick up a notch. (Only in very few cases does it mean that we recommend that you stay off the river.)

Gauge/flow analysis (based on USGS data, 1944.10.01-2009.03.12)
Drainage area at gauge: 107.48 sq.mi.
Minimum daily mean flow (1964.08.16): 0.8 cfs
90% of time flow exceeds: 8 cfs
10% of time flow exceeds: 204 cfs
Maximum daily mean flow (1981.06.13): 8400 cfs
10/90 ratio ('flashy-ness'): 25.5 (under 3 is quite steady, over 10 is quite 'flashy')

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






Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1195576 06/27/09 Rob
1196350 10/25/09 Rob
1196351 10/25/09 Rob
1196378 10/29/09 Rob
1196410 11/02/09 Rob
1201670 11/14/12 Rob Fix typo and change feature photo
1211704 04/02/19 Rob updated image position
1208802 01/27/18 Rob minor edit (gauge analysis)
1195445 06/15/09 Rob
1195477 06/17/09 Rob
1194942 04/25/09 Rob n/a
1195358 06/06/09 Rob