Kishwaukee River - Illinois

Date: June 26, 2020; Length: 8 miles; Duration: 2 hours 15 min

Put In: Belvidere Park

Parking lot with a landing for easy access.

Takeout: Baumann Park

Parking lot with a landing for an easy takeout. Restrooms here as well.

Paddling Experience = 3/5

There wasn't much of a distinguishable current at this water level. It did have a few riffles scattered in, but also the occasional tight squeezes between downed trees.

Natural Scenery = 3/5

The natural scenery surrounding this part of the River wasn't anything special but also nothing to complain about. It was often banked with deciduous trees and didn't have much for human development beyond the access points.

Accessibility = 5/5

In a short 8-mile section of the Kishwaukee there were four solid accessible spots. This is the case further down river as well, with access points well spaced, labeled, and equipped with parking, landings, and restrooms.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~4 feet per mile. Not much of a current, but a few riffles.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: Paddling at this water level went alright. The water seemed high, just coming off a long thunderstorm. There were a few instances of tight squeezes around downed trees and some wide areas that could be split with islands at lower levels. And with the high and more flooded out water, there wasn't much of a current but a few riffles.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Belvidere gauge, located around the put in of this section):

  • USGS Number = 05438500
  • Discharge Rate = 500 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 2.3 ft

Overall Experience

Looking to paddle a handful of rivers in northern Illinois, I found a 14 mile section of the Kishwaukee River in Mike Svob’s Paddling Illinois. This stretch of the river between Belvidere Park and Atwood Park is full of viable and well developed access points, so there were so many options for a put in to takeout trip. I was initially intending on paddling all 14 miles, but thunderstorms the night before, morning of, and more to come later in the day, only gave me a small window to get on and off the Kishwaukee. So my trip shortened to 9 miles, still starting at Belvidere Park but planning to end at Espenscheid Landing.
With a half hour passing since downpouring thunderstorms and a sign of clearer skies, I parked at the Espenscheid Canoe Landing and started hiking towards my put in of Belvidere Park. It has a small parking lot with a path leading down to a beach area and the edge of the river. As I arrived it started to sprinkle, probably not a great sign for my time to come on the river. But by 3 in the afternoon I was paddling on the Kishwaukee. And it seemed the weather was holding off. The river was brown and without much clarity. Not surprisingly, the water seemed high and didn’t have much of a current, but did have a few riffles here and there. It was wide and open enough most of the way, aside from a few tight squeezes of downed trees. As for life on the river, I was the only paddler or human in sight, but I did come across a handful of groups of geese, a blue heron, several hawks, and some jumping fish. Trees lined the banks, surrounding the river most of the way with a handful of houses off the water. Coming upon the interstate 90 bridge, I knew I had about three miles left until my takeout, which would have been more than doable if it weren’t for the ensuing thunderstorms. Out of nowhere it was completely downpouring again with thunderstorms a little off in the distance. After about a mile of soaked paddling and too close for comfort thunderstorms, I pulled off on river left at Baumann Park’s landing and quickly got out and brought everything with me under a pavilion.
From here I had to decide my next choice of waiting the thunderstorm out or packing up and hiking the rest of the way back to Espenscheid. I chose to hike and after somewhat drying and packing everything up, I was walking instead of paddling in the downpouring thunderstorms. But eventually, as I was nearing my car, the rain and storms started to lighten up, so it might of been an hour’s wait if I had decided to wait it out. I finished this river trip in the unconventional way of hike, paddle, hike, but it still counts. Looking back dealing with the weather is probably the highlight of paddling this part of the Kishwaukee river, and if that weren’t the case it would be the great access points.