Facts About the Vermillion River & Vermillion River Rafting

The Vermillion river is a fisherman's paradise, with numerous eddies, slack pools, overhanging and downed trees, deep holes and rocky shorelines. If a leisurely trip is what you have in mind, bring along your fishing poles and a picnic lunch. Don't forget, however, that this is a whitewater trip, and sooner or later, you are going to get wet! The big Vermillion River starts its 50 mile course as a pair of creeks on the border of Ford and Livingston counties, deepens as it rolls through Pontiac to the dam at Streator, picks up speed as it winds through Matthiessen State Park, and empties into the Illionois River near LaSalle/Peru. It is one of the rare rivers in the US that runs South to North. According to Bob Herbst, who runs the only whitewater rafting business on the river, the best place for this sport is a 9 1/2 mile stretch from Route 178 bridge at Lowell, to County Road 651 bridge near Oglesby.

For a modest charge of $30 per adult and $25 for children 16 and under, Vermillion River Rafting supplies a 4 or 6 man raft, paddles, life vests and rafting instructions. They also now rent funyaks, an inflatable type of kayak for $35 per person. "We also shuttle your vehicle to the Oglesby bridge take out point, so it's right there waiting for you when you get out of the raft," Herbst said. With the help of stepson Brett Hazen and Ruth Kreiser, Herbst has been running his raft rental business out of a large garage on his property since 1996. The number of trips has increased steadily from the first year.

The best time of year to run the river is from May to mid July when spring rains bring water levels up to about 4 feet deep. The 3 MPH pace reveals another striking feature of the river; its total lack of development along its banks. It's a unique river because during the whole trip the only man made structure you will see is the Lone Star Cement Plant near the end. There is not another building along the river. You aren't pestered by a bunch of cars running along the highway next to you or anything else. Using the International Scale of River Difficulty from the American Whitewater Affilation, the Big Vermillion River would probably rate a Class III out of 6 classes.

There are about 14 sets of rapids in this 9 1/2 miles. Most are classified 1's and 2's. If the river water is up over 4 foot, you will get some class 3 rapids, like Wildcat Falls and the Lone Star Dam. The Narrows (below the cement plant dam) is classified as class 3. Its a good beginner river, alot of fun for kids, boy scouts, church groups ect. Herbst said. They can go out and have a real nice afternoon, The most fun time is when the water is about 4 feet deep. That's when Wildcat Falls acts like a wildcat the way it rolls off the rocks. The Narrows below the Lone Star dam are nice too. There are usually about a dozen waves that are anywhere from three to five feet high, one right after another. It's like riding a roller coaster. If you are looking for a great time on the river, give Vermillion River Rafting a call. Reservations are recommended, especially on week-ends and for parties of 5 or more.