With little planning, my old college roommate and I decided to spend the weekend on the Embarras River from Charleston to Greenup, IL. It would have been a nice hike if I hadn't been dragging my kayak.
It wasn't that bad, but the water was fairly low so we dragged a lot and had to get out quite often. The total trip was 32 miles and we had to completely get the boats out of the water for a short portage three times. I would recommend this trip as it was quite scenic, but I would only do it again when the water is up.
We put in at the Charleston Canoe access area on the south side of Lake Charleston, just below the dam. The first day we paddled just shy of 20 miles and camped on a large sandbar just before Sconce Bend. Before the bend the river takes a long sweeping right turn and it gave us a very nice campsite.
The river is very pretty and there was a lot of wildlife. We saw a lot of heron and sandpipers. We came around a bend and found a very large buck (deer) standing in the water drinking but he took off very quick. The second day we saw some baby deer that were very inquisitive and walked right up to our kayaks and spent some time standing beside us. Raccoons were around the camp at night, but didn't come up to the tent or bother anything.
The second day we made the last twelve miles fairly quickly and skipped lunch so we could eat at Dairy Queen when we pulled out.
I would recommend this trip to anyone, but make it when the water is up. Take a camera because there is a lot of wildlife and some very scenic spots. At one point the river wraps around a state park (Fox Ridge I believe) and there is a canoe/kayak access point on the south side of the park if you wish to just do a day trip through this same area.
This is a wilderness camping area, carry everything you need in/out with you.
We used my two kayaks, both Old Towns, a Loon 138 and Adventure 160xl.
To get to the put-in site, take 130 south out of Charleston and turn to go to the dam. Take the drive all the way around to the right and it will go to the small canoe access area.
"Paddling Illinois" by Mike Svob and Judith Ettenhofer