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Big Vermilion River in Illinois

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

The Big Vermilion River, with it's three main tributaries, the Salt Fork, the Middle Fork, and the North Fork, is a lovely river for easy to slightly challenging canoeing.

My friend and I have canoed the entire 45 miles of the Salt Fork, 6 miles of the Big Vermilion, and 10 miles so far of the Middle Fork. The Middle Fork is designated as a National Scenic River, the only one so designated in IL. But both the Salt Fork and Middle Fork are beautiful, with towering shale cliffs, sandstone bluffs, wetland prairie, heavy timer, cool old steel truss bridges, TONS of fauna, great fishing, lots of fun and easy riffles and rapids, several sand and gravel bars for picknicking.

Public access is plentiful, with many access points on public land, or along township roads with adequate parking and (mostly) mud-free departures.

The Big Vermilion has one very dangerous lowhead dam that must be avoided, it is just past the downtown Danville area. There is a prominent warning sign 3000 ft upstream of the dam, where one must turn left up the North Fork to the Ellsworth Park takeout. Nonetheless a 12 year old girl was killed last year when she and her sister ignored the sign and the instructions given by the outfitter and went over the dam.


Both Champaign-Urbana and Danville have numerous places to stay.


Canoes and Kayaks must be registered in IL.


Vermilion County, IL is near the junction of Interstates 57 and 74.


Mcollum and Smith, "A Guide to the Big Vermilion River System", C. 1983

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip, 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location