|Fishnet Rapids, Des Plaines River
(Will County, Illinois)
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When boating, regardless of water depth, wear a PFD!
Use caution in this area. Remember that a heavy rains in Southern Wisconsin (Des Plaines River), on Chicago's north side (Chicago River) or even in Northwest Indiana (Calumet Rivers), can have a very big impact in this area days later.
I have been told (though I can't find newspaper articles) that there have been 5 fatalities (all fishermen) on this section of river since 1990. Always use common sense.
Rapids in the flatlands of Chicago? The Fishnet Rapids are located about 45 minutes southwest of Chicago on the Des Plaines River, between Illinois Route 7 and Division Street (near Lockport, IL). If you put your canoe in at Isle a la Cache, you will experience a 30+ foot gradient between the Isle's canoe ramp and Division Street (see detailed map) as well as a much increased water flow. The quality of this run varies greatly depending on water level (rapids or rock garden). Take out point is the Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve. (Note: some maps may show Division Street with a bridge going across the Des Plaines, however the bridge is closed, You'll have to cross at I-7.
How did this come to be? Well, we all know that the flow of the Chicago river was reversed in January 1900. The Ship & Sanitary Canal links the Chicago River to the Des Plaines River. In the 1960's, the flow of the Little Calumet River and Grand Calumet Rivers were also reversed to prevent polluted water from entering Lake Michigan. The Calumet rivers now flow through the Cal-Sag channel and into the S&S Canal near Lemont.
In the town of Lockport, there are a set of locks to allow barges to travel the S&S Canal to Lake Michigan and the Illinois River. In order to handle the river current and to prevent the canal from backing up sewage into Lake Michigan, an overflow spillway was created just south of Isle a la Cache. This spillway (Bear Trap Dam) dumps the combined flow of the Chicago, Little Calumet and Grand Calumet rivers into the Des Plaines River. The banks of the Des Plaines River do not expand however, and shortly after Illinois Route 7, a series of islands appear in the river, forcing the much larger flow through an even smaller river bed. The combination of the 30-foot elevation change, increased water flow, and compression the islands in the river create these small rapids. They are called Fishnet Rapids due to the fishnet-like pattern of channels flowing between the islands.
As you travel thru them, remember, Jolliet and Marquette paddled upstream against them. In Illinois, most maps showed both the Marsailles and Fishnet Rapids as the only rapids in the state.
A more detailed map (321k) is on this link.
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