CHOOSE THE ILLINOIS RIVER if you want to enjoy unobstructed paddling(no log jams, no portaging), full sun paddling, all sandy banks, sand bars and islands and backwater lakes where birds fish. The Illinois river is a 200 yard wide river and is very safe for beginners. We have a 50 yard wide paddling lane(between the buoys and the shoreline on each side of the main channel) It is safer to paddle this river than to ride your bike down the street! When you ride your bike down a street you are within a few feet of moving cars. We have a huge 50 yard wide area on the side of the river where it is too shallow for boats to travel, so we are many yards away from any sort of boat traffic.
Remember RIVERS ARE MUCH SAFER THAN LAKES WHEN IT COMES TO TRAFFIC. There is a discernible pattern of traffic on rivers(similar to flow of traffic on streets). On lakes there is no such discernible pattern of traffic which makes lakes much more unsafe. THERE IS NO FLOW RATE/CURRENT on the ILLINOIS river. If the wind is from the West you and your boat will actually be blown upstream! This river is paddleable equally in both directions without a problem.
Choose the Mazon River(open to Non-motorized watercraft only June 1st-September 30. CHOOSE THE MAZON RIVER if you want to enjoy a small quiet river with shady paddling. Please note that you may encounter log jams and lower water. The mazon has sandy/muddy banks that have quite a bit of poison ivy so if you want to hop out of your boat, paddle back to the Illinois river(sandy beaches). The Mazon is home to our state fossil the Tully Monster. Also important to note is that the water level on the gauge must be above 2.8ft in order to be able to complete the lower forks loop(intermediate level only due to a portage and the presence of log jams. CLICK HERE FOR CURRENT GAUGE READING Gauge readings below 1 foot make this river too low for paddling overall.
CHOOSE THE I & M CANAL if you want to paddle a little bit of history. The canal is only paddleable in the early spring or late fall due to the overgrowth of duckweed(algae)(most likely due to prevalent use of fertilizers on fields/lawns) in the warmer months.