Streit Road to Denny Road:
This section of Piscasaw Creek had everything I liked about the upper section and then some. Here I found beautiful prairie surroundings, farm dams that were fun and easy to run, and it was all topped off by an unexpectedly riffly (and sometimes pushy) ending which made for a very solid trip.
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: April 12, 2017
Skill Level: Intermediate
Class Difficulty: Class I
≈ 7’ per mile
Walworth: ht/ft: 4.96 | cfs: 3.5
Gauge note: The Walworth gauge is far upstream and isn’t the most reliable for gauging levels. If you are only going off this gauge, I would be more inclined to hit this at the right cfs versus ht/ft because the ht/ft moves in very small increments – I can’t confirm that is totally accurate, it’s just a hunch. (What I didn’t know is that there is a visual gauge on the bridge pylons at Denny Road. It faces the opposite way of what I would consider the obvious approach. Therefore, I didn’t get a shot of it. Sorry folks)
This is the recommended minimum level. While I didn’t have any issue navigating at these levels, any lower, I would have surely been scraping the creek bed. As noted, since the Walworth gauge isn’t entirely reliable for gauging the levels, it can be somewhat of a crapshoot to catch it at the right levels.
Streit Road, south of Beck’s Woods, Chemung, Illinois
Time: Put in at 1:15p. Out at 3:20p.
Total Time: 2h 5m
Miles Paddled: 6.75
Ducks, one bald eagle, many heron, ducks, four turtles, very small trout, dozens of critters, three deer, an owl and many more beavers.
This is an easy bike shuttle along farmland surroundings with no real grade to contend with. Also, for shuttle purposes, Streight Road is not a great put-in with regards to parking. So keep in mind that you’ll probably do your bike shuttle before you paddle since there’s really no place to park a car.
Having visited the Piscasaw for the first time just a few days earlier after having ignored it for so long, I had to go back to take advantage of the water levels and continue the joyride I had experienced on this pretty Prairie creek.
…Oh, there’s the farm dams!
Indeed, herein lies the farm dams that evaded my paddle earlier in the week (now, sure the dams are an artificial feature of this creek but they do make the trip all the more appealing, fun, and let’s face it, they’ll be there for awhile). They are all gentle and manageable drops at these levels. Though there are indeed four, the fourth is completely avoidable as it appears time and erosion has made it less of a dam and more of a bunch of dam rocks, which allows you to paddle around it on creek-right.
Having explained the backstory and the catalyst for this paddle on the previous trip, I had to return to finish what I’d intended to start. As I suggested, this could be combined with the upper section starting at Maxon Road just south of Beck’s Woods for a lovely 11.75 mile paddle. But beginners may want to steer clear of this section due to the farm dams at the beginning and the pushier current at the end. Though at these levels it is easy enough to get out and walk your way around any potential obstacles.
This 6.75 miles are almost evenly divided from the Streit road put-in to the Denny Road take-out, making for four easily characterized sections.
Starting at the put-in, the first section to the Boon McHenry Line Road bridge, again, starts off much wider than upstream. Though the creek fluctuates width time and again throughout, this was the widest it will be.
The three (fun) farm dams reside between these two bridges. The fourth comes just after the Boon McHenry Line Road but it’s no longer much of a dam and it might not even really be runnable or appealing to do so at these levels. Erosion has made a completely open area creek-right to circumvent it.
All three dams are gentle descents/drops and are quite fun. Here’s a tip: each has what appears to be three chutes to choose from; right, left and center. All can be scouted or just follow the center channel on all three and you’ll be fine, running them smoothly at these levels.
The next section, between Boon McHenry Line Road to Mill Road has a little bit of variety. It starts with the last aforementioned farm dam which isn’t much more than a pile of rocks to leer at. From there, it tends to be more open with a lot more prairie, eroded banks and farmland. You’ll encounter a tons of ducks and of course, duck blinds. There are also more straightaways until after Mill where it begins to twist and turn once again. I found this to be a very peaceful and gentle part of the float despite being close to a road on creek-left. Before the Mill Road bridge there is one non-negotiable portage. It’s a mess of a tree in need of a chainsaw or a whole lot of one-on-one time with Mother Nature. Regardless, it’s an easy portage creek-right up and around a shallow bank.
After that, Mill to Capron Road are all Pure Prairie League paddling – “Amie, whatcha wanna do?”. It’s real pleasant as it cuts through more prairie and farmland along low eroded banks. The numerous geese protecting their nests are the only annoyance (and rightly so, they should be).
From the Capron Road bridge to the take-out at Denny Road, things changes – completely. The paddle got riffly for the first time and the current, much pushier. This was a fun and curvy section, but the added force of the current definitely required some extra maneuvering. There were a couple dodgy turns, so boat control is important. There are spots that look like potential portages, but if you read the current right, you should be able to duck and dodge any thing that might be hanging low in the water. The creek continued to be curvy and the current strong all the way to the end.
The take-out at Denny is my kind of take-out. There’s really nothing fancy about it, just a bridge off a gravel road that is rarely traveled so it felt private, which makes for an unrushed and uncongested exit. It’s the kind of take-out I love.
What we liked:
Well, finding the dams was finally pretty awesome. And one of the two access points being great is another bonus. Add to that a pushy but fun current, there wasn’t much not to like.
This creek very much reminds me of Black Earth Creek, save for the fact that Black Earth is much woodsier and narrow at times. Then again, it too is a trout stream (that is stocked by the DNR) and it does have that same crystal clear water that flows over a sand or stony creekbed. Its width and alternating environment are very similar as it shifts between intimate and then wide open stretches with grassy or low-banked farmland and pretty surroundings.
The water level was noticeably lower these few days later but I had no hangups. When it was wide, (the widest point is the stretch just after the Streit Road put-in) I was floating just a foot above the sand. It was slack and any lower… yeah, there could be walking. Beyond that though, it was easy going.
What we didn’t like:
The put-in at Streit Road, again is not ideal. Not the access itself but the parking. The road has a very small shoulder before it drops off sharply to the ditch on both sides each way. I don’t know where people park without shuttling a half mile or so just to do so. So that’s where I parked my bike during both trips. But I should note that there isn’t even a good place to lock-up your bike/boat either. I had to hike it down the road to a telephone pole.
Depending how you want to tailor your trip, this could be avoided as Boones/Mill/Capron/Denny roads are all better for parking, so you could park at Boones but you’d miss the great farm dams.
Also, again that damn wind showed itself. Yet this time it was a headwind (but luckily not as strong as it was a few days earlier). Boo to you, Sir wind.
If we did this trip again:
These two days were a bit of a quandry. How do I write this up? What do I recommend? I mean, there are different ways to tailor these 11.75 miles, but there’s so much to love about all of it if you like prairie-land paddling.
On one hand, a beginner will love the upper section – Maxon to Streit – while avoiding the farm dams. Those first 5 miles are great for everyone.
But combining our two trips reports from Maxon to Denny, would make one excellent, albeit, longer paddle.
Then again, you could just paddle from Maxon, add on the farm dams and take-out at Boones which would make for a nice way to end a shorter day paddle.
But also, there’s another consideration… the last section leading to Denny Road intrigued me so much, that exploring further downstream (before it becomes slack from the confluence with the Kishwaukee) seems really appealing. What does lie beyond Denny?
Well, believe it or not, while it took us years to visit this creek in the first place, we actually visited it for a third time – all within a week (that report is coming soon but a little spoiler… these sections, from Maxon to Denny or Streit to Denny are the best…). Yeah, we’re kind of strange like that.
Regardless, I really had a great couple days on this creek. I can’t believe it took so long to actually visit the Piscasaw. While it may be paddleable beyond spring, (like after a hard rain) it really is exceptionally pretty in spring. Catch it when you can and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too.
Piscasaw River I: Maxon Road to Streit Road
Piscasaw Creek III: Denny Road to Squaw Prairie Road
Video: Tom Lindblade
Video: Morrall River Films
Wikipedia: Piscasaw Creek
Miles Paddled Video: