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Embarras River in Illinois

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

The plan was for me and my buddy to leave early Saturday morning from Charleston fishing and paddling about half way, camping, and then continuing to Greenup the next day. Good plan, but it didn't work out.

We got the kayaks off-loaded and just as we were packing our gear it started to sprinkle. Just as we were getting ready to leave we saw a pileated woodpecker. It was only the 2nd time I had seen one in person and my buddy had never seen one. This alone made it worth the trip. Anyway, rain poncho's on, the bird was gone, so we shoved off as it began to lightly rain south of the Charleston Lake dam where we put in. There was only a 30% chance for the day so we figured we would take on these odds. The water level was perfect with a gentle flow.

The first few miles we hit the fishing hard. The plan was to only eat what we caught but we brought some food just in case. I was switching lures between different gold blade spinners (muddy water) while my buddy was using grubs. Just as we were entering the edge of the Fox Ridge State Park (we did not see the first landing, so it might be poorly marked), about 5 miles in, I caught a 3" bass. Yes, 3 inches. Little did we know at the time it would be our only catch of the trip.

By 6 miles into the trip the rain was steady and we were getting wet. I at least had a fitting poncho, my buddy had my emergency poncho that looked more like a trash bag pulled over his body. Over the next few miles we mainly looked at the banks and little creeks starting to flow into the Embarras as the water began to rise. The current from the Indian Creek flowing into the Embarras had pushed up a sandbar where I took the attached photo. The constant drizzle seen in the photo perfectly depicts our day.

Once we got to the end of the Fox Ridge State Park we stopped to eat a little lunch. The canoe landing was clearly marked and can be found without any trouble. Looking at my empty fish basket I reluctantly reached for my canned Spam and Pringles and began to eat. Getting out at this point is what we should have done but the rain cleared for just long enough for us to eat and to re-energize us. Just as we shoved off it began to pour rain.

The next several miles were very uneventful. The only interesting part was all the catfish poles stuck in the side of the mud banks but the lines were as limp as a noodle. We went by 5 miles of poles in the water and did not see a single fish thrashing about.

When we reached 1200N, the fist road we had come to on this trip, we began to see a few houses and people out fishing. This was the only sighting of other people all day. It was roughly 7PM and we were wet, cold, tired and hungry and started looking for a place to camp for the night. We found a nice sandbar by about 8PM and 16 miles into our trip. We began to setup camp just as my buddy asked the question "Why are we roughing it?" At this point I could tell he was clearly done so we packed up and paddled up stream to 1200N where our trip ended. The boat ramp there was very good. If you can get over the sand on the concrete ramp you could really launch a good sized boat here if you wished. By 10PM my lovely wife showed up with a warm truck and a way home.




No fees


Off HWY 130 go towards Charleston Lake and there is a canoe launch. Muddy but accessible by truck. Just follow signs once at the lake.


"Paddling Illinois"

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Trip Details

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

Trip Location