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Middle Fork of Vermillion River in Illinois

Trip Overview

This is for the 13 mile trip from Kinney's Ford (starting in the Middle Fork Fish and Game Wildlife Area) to Kickapoo State Park, near Oakwood, IL. There are shorter trips available.

I write this because
1.) I have seen a significant drop in contemporary reports and
2.) this is the only National Scenic River in Illinois and the first river in IL to be included in the National Wild and Scenic River system...and it is under serious threat:

Part of the river borders the coal ash pits from the now closed Dynergy coal fired power plant, which wants to "cap and run" their three coal ash pits. Riding the river, on the west bank one sees disintegrating retaining walls-the rocks and wire holding them are falling into the river. Check for details with: the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Prairie Rivers Network, as well as locals (there are articles detailing the problem and petitions, info. on contacting the IL gov., etc. at Kickapoo Landing).

The trip:
Sunday was predicted to be 81; it probably reached 78. Conditions were sunny, with a wind at about 5-10. Water levels probably ranged an avg. of 2 ft (from 5"-20' in places). River banks were wetted 5-6' and the shuttle owner stated that it had gotten that high just 4-5 days previously (this river can flood quickly, and then recede quickly), so check the water gauges.

The trip was pleasant, with areas of deep, slow moving water interspersed with shallower riffles. There was one area that required portage over a sand bank even for kayaks. This trip is considered a beginner's level, but I marked it as moderate or even moderately difficult because of all of the deadfall that required skillful maneuvering (and 3 years of sand erosion from the December 2015 flooding-reminding me of the 2013 Boulder, CO creek flood aftermath). I saw a dozen or more capsizes-not dangerous in the shallower water, but abundant sweepers and strainers sometimes left little time for split second decisions on which side of the river to go (with sandbars in the middle). The river cannot be touched, hence the branches and trees. That said, they provided numerous perches for the turtles (dozens and dozens, including some more than 12" in diameter).

Beautiful sights included the springs (that dry up in the summer), shale canyons, bluffs, sandpipers, swallows, turkey vultures, eagles, great herons, mussels, and large fish at about mile 9-10 (the water is often quite clear, with the bottom alternating sand and gravel).

The sandbars are numerous and nice for stopping for a picnic.The take out is near the parking lot and cafe area (run by a local family that cooks real food) that sometimes has live music.

The trip takes 4-6 hours on the river, including time to just laze and gaze. This is a good family/group trip.


Shuttles are available for $22.00 for kayaks and canoes for the 13 mile trip. You can park in the Kickapoo Landing Parking lot. Cafe, bathrooms, kayak, canoe, and tube rentals are available as well as fishing bait and tackle, river shoes, etc.


$22 for shuttle (one way) and $36/44 for kayak/canoe rentals w/discounts for 6 or more rentals.


I-57 to I-74 E

Get off I-74 to US 150 W

Turn right onto Country Rd. 1180 E

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip