Fishnet Rapids - Isle de la Cache to Division St.

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Fishnet Rapids - Isle de la Cache to Division St.

Postby rich on Mon Feb 15, 2010 9:53 pm

Below is an excellent trip report from paddler Mark L.

Last year around September I took the Des Plaines River trip from Isle de la Cache to Division St. It was a very nice and surprisingly scenic trip through what I thought would be an industrial part of the river - saw several deer and jumping fish (bass and carp), there are a handful of fast riffle areas, and the banks are primarily lined with woodlands and wetland prairie.

The exciting part was the last ½ to ¾ mi of the trip through Fishnet Rapids. Since Fishnet was my primary interest and daylight was becoming an issue as the year progressed, my next time out I planned the quick but exciting trip below, which takes about a half hour depending on how much time you play in the waves. The google map satellite view is actually pretty decent to scope out the route.

Put in:
Frontage road (W 9th St) on the west side of the Des Plaines River off of the Route 7 bridge (aka 9th St bridge). There are signs saying this is private property of the Metro Water Reclamation Service, but the first time I was walking my yak back to the put-in, a police car pulled up and the officer was very friendly and said that I am fine as long as the MWRS people don't catch me. I don't think there is any good parking here - I generally do a self shuttle w/ my car and bike.

Take out:
W Division St about a mile or so down river, just south of the Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve

I will outline below the river-left path though the fun stuff. I've only paddled it 4 times this past fall and winter - there always has been enough water to run, although the upper part near Rt 7 can be a little shallow and you have to pick the right paths to prevent too much scraping along (the police officer I met happened to be a paddler and told me you are better sticking more to the banks than the middle - this has yet to be proven). I explored the islands and channels of Fishnet Rapids in the fall, and there is not enough water to paddle any of the other handful of channels even at higher water times - maybe they will be navigable in the spring. There are few to no good eddies that I saw through the Rapids section, but I have mainly just run the section straight through instead of playing around and pushing the limits because I have been traveling solo.

I have had luck sticking river-right (west) after Rt 7 for about ½ mile until you see a broken-down truck on the left (east) bank at the end of an island. You can paddle right and land your boat on the island at this point to scope out the rapids to follow. The channel following the truck is where you want to go river-left and head past a wave in the middle of the channel. Once past this wave, the current will pick up dramatically.

About 150-200 feet downstream there will be the largest wave of the Rapids, which is more like 8-10 foot wide chute than a wave or fall, where the river suddenly drops probably around 2+ feet. After this chute there are haystacks and tall crossing waves to bound over and though before you break back into swift current and another wave. Following this set, ferry river-left and catch the wave on the left side, then a slight break in the action leads to a quick succession of 2-3 wave sets spaced about 20-50 feet apart along the left bank where there is a limestone rock face. Each of these waves is about 10-15 feet long and runs fairly perpendicular to the river current - a great opportunity to play around, but I found getting in/out of these waves to be tricky due to the swift current and lack of good eddies.

After you get past these, the excitement is pretty much over and you will see the Division St bridge ahead (closed bridge). Right before the bridge there are some riffles and faster water near the center bridge support, and just after the bridge there is a little set of 2-3 little waves to quench your surfing fix since your adrenaline will probably still be going from the rapids. Just past the bridge on river-right there will be a nice little eddy spot to exit the river - parking up the hill.
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