Nippersink Creek - Illinois

Date: June 27, 2020; Length: 13.5 miles; Duration: 3 hours 45 min

Put In: Keystone Landing (Glacial Park)

Parking lot with a restroom and a landing for an easy put in just after the bridge.

Takeout: Nippersink Canoe Base

An easy takeout at a small landing of a bay on river right. A short walk leads back to the parking lot, equipped with a restroom.

Paddling Experience = 3/5

The river varied in the paddling experience it gave. The first part of it winded a lot and made for more drifting than paddling. Farther into this section the winding lessened greatly but with that came more instances of downed trees to avoid and one portage necessary.

Natural Scenery = 3/5

Glacial Park was the first part of the Nippersink and was very open with grassy banks. Houses and bridges began to crop up once exiting Glacial Park. With this development came more trees lining the banks to the river until the end of this section.

Solitude = 3/5

Three stars is the perfect rating for solitude because of the vast differences in it for the different sections. The first part, Glacial Park, was filled with fellow kayakers, to the point that it was difficult to pass some. Shortly after though, there was a vast drop off in people to the point of no other kayakers.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~3 feet per mile. Decent current with a lot of winding.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: Paddling at this water level was good. It seemed high but still had a noticeable current to it. Towards the end of this section the downed trees increased making for some tight squeezes and one portage, which would have been the case at other water levels as well.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Spring Grove gauge, located about 8 miles into paddling this section):

  • USGS Number = 05548280
  • Discharge Rate = 600 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 7.0 ft

Overall Experience

Looking to paddle a handful of rivers in northern Illinois, I found a 13.5 mile section of the Nippersink Creek in Mike Svob’s Paddling Illinois (he has it at 12 miles). It goes from Keystone Landing at Glacial Park to Nippersink Canoe Base, with two solid canoe landing options in between. All of these access points were well equipped with a parking lot, restroom, and an actual landing for easy access. I parked at the Nippersink Canoe Base, packed my packraft into my backpack, and hiked over to Keystone Landing. After less than three hours I was there and so were a bunch of other people and a parking lot filled with vehicles. While inflating my packraft in a patch of grass by the landing, a few small groups of kayakers and canoes put in. One canoe with a couple teenagers tipped before they could make their first paddle strokes, right by the landing due to a solid current running perpendicular to the landing and their attempted entry.
Once it was my turn, my packraft had no problem with entering into the current, as its wide, stable, and designed for actual rapids as well. What I did have trouble with was finding the room on the creek to pass slower paddlers or floaters, which there seemed an infinite amount of. With it being a creek, it’s a narrow one that winds a bunch in the first four miles of Glacial Park, making this more difficult still. Yet the water was high and had a noticeable current. The creek was banked with high grass and very open beyond that, with the first group of trees not spotted until about four miles in. Leaving the Glacial Park section also left me clear of most other paddlers, as it seems most were just doing that park section of the creek, taking out at the Pioneer Road landing. Banks started to be more consistently lined with trees but so was the actual creek in some spots, having downed trees more often providing some tight squeezes and one full portage towards the end. The third landing called Lyle C. Thomas Memorial Park had a “warning large blockage ahead” sign that was referring to this needed portage. It occurred about a mile after and came shortly before the Wilmot road bridge. There was definitely no passing through this conjested collection of downed trees across a part of the creek, but thankfully a short path led right around it and back to the creek. About three miles later I was approaching the takeout at the edge of a bay on river right of Nippersink Canoe Base.
Without a great spot there to deflate my packraft, I decided to bring it back to my car still inflated and deflate it there. A little less than four hours had passed on the creek.  It was a good time, spotting some ducks, geese, and a Sandhill crane, and getting vastly different paddling experiences. It went from the feel of a social event out in the open to a more solitude and intimate time with trees surrounding you on the water.