Dallas Downriver Club

Illinois River near Tahlequah, Ok

Date: October 5-6, 2013 Sponsor: DDRC
River: Illinois, NE Oklahoma Trip Leader: Bryan Jackson
Reach: TBD by water levels Phone: 972-979-2519
Difficulty: Class I * (See scale below) E-mail: paddlinpals@yahoo.com
Rendezvous: Sparrow Hawk Camp, 9:00 AM Saturday
Campground: Sparrow Hawk Camp

Trip Description:

The Illinois River is a very scenic river with no rapids, and its only hazards are occasional downed trees across parts of the river channel. The river is, however, wide enough in most places to avoid those trees by paddling around them. The river is popular during summer months, but generally much less crowded during the late spring, so we will not be paddling among huge groups of people, and we are likely to have few others sharing the campground with us. The Illinois is a popular fishing river, so bring your tackle if you have an Oklahoma fishing license - game wardens DO check licenses on this river!

Most of us will drive to Tahlequah on Friday afternoon or evening and camp overnight at Sparrow Hawk Camp on SH 10. Depending upon flow, we will paddle various reaches of the river on Saturday and Sunday before returning home. Camping fees are $12 per car per night for up to three tents, so ride sharing is encouraged to save money. There is an Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission (OSRC) launch fee of $1.00 per person per day, and a separate wrist band is required for each day. These are available at Sparrow Hawk Camp, as well as from the OSRC headquarters on SH 10 near Sparrow Hawk Mountain.

We plan to have a potluck dinner on Saturday night, but the cuisine has not yet been determined. Bryan will send out an e-mail blast giving you instructions on the cuisine so that you can bring something to share that will be compatible with the entree'.

For more information contact Bryan Jackson at (972) 972-2519. You can also contact Bryan via email to Bryan Jackson.

Please contact Bryan Jackson if you are thinking of coming so he can expect you and notify you of any changes.

Gear Requirements:

Almost any river worthy boat will suffice for this flat water trip. Bring PFD's, a whistle and throw bag for each person. October should be mild, but could be cool at night. Bring sun protection - a hat and sun block - and light rain gear just in case. Also bring everything you may want for camping - tent, sleeping bag, chair, etc. Water is supplied at the park.


Bring all your own meals, utensils, plate, cup, etc. We will have lunch on the river Saturday, so bring a small cooler or bag for it, but PLEASE - NO GLASS OR FOAM POLYSTYRENE STYROFOAM CONTAINERS! We will have a potluck on Saturday night (cuisine TBD.)

Back-up Plans:

There is currently no backup plan for this trip. If, for any reason, the trip on the Illinois River cannot be made, then we will explore other options in SE Oklahoma.

Driving Directions:

This reach of the Illinois River is located in Cherokee County on SH 10 just northeast of Tahlequah.

From Dallas:

  • From Dallas, follow US 75N to McAlester

  • Follow US 69N to OK 165E (south of Muskogee)

  • Turn EAST (right) onto US 62E / OK 10N (east of Muskogee), go through Tahlequah

  • Turn RIGHT on US 62E / OK 10N, and then drive out of Tahlequah to the SH 10 split

  • Turn LEFT where OK 10N splits from US 62E

  • Go approximately 4 miles, and the road to Sparrow Hawk Camp will be on the right side of the highway.

Illinois River map

* International Scale of River Difficulty

Class I: Easy. Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight, self-rescue is easy.

Class II: Novice. Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed.

Class III: Intermediate. Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims.

Class IV: Advanced. Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require "must" moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting is necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills. A strong eskimo roll is highly recommended.

Class V: Expert. Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to above average endangerment. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is mandatory but often difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is difficult even for experts. A very reliable eskimo roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential for survival.

Class VI: Extreme. One grade more difficult than Class V. These runs often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. This class does not represent drops thought to be unrunnable, but may include rapids which are only occasionally run.

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Last updated September 2, 2013