At 39 Days Above Flood Stage, Illinois River Not Helping Boat Clubs

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
High water, dangerous flow, debris and closed boat ramps on the Illinois River have all but killed the first half of summer boating.

The river began rising June 7, 45 days ago, and has yet to return to normal midsummer level. In La Salle, the river has been above the 20-foot flood stage for 39 days.

At South Shore Boat Club in Peru, half of its 48 boat slips sit vacant because members never took their boats out of winter storage, said member Dave DeGroot.

“With all this high water I don’t even know if I’m going to un-winterize my boat this year,” he said.

At times, the river was closed to recreational boating. Local boat ramps are flooded and closed.

The high water curbed weekend visits from traveling boaters to local clubs. South Shore’s new barbecue menu has offset some of this, DeGroot said.

“A lot people can’t put their boats in,” DeGroot said. “There’s just no place to put a boat in.”

For members who did dock their boats, the walkway is underwater. Getting to boats requires boarding a small rowboat and paddling out.

Spring Valley Boat Club remained inaccessible by road on Monday because of flooding. At the East Peoria Boat Club, The Miss Riverbottom festival was first postponed from late June to early August.

This is one of the largest river celebrations of the summer. But continued flooding forced the Peoria club to cancel it altogether.

South Shore’s annual Bikini Contest is Aug. 1, its biggest event of the year.

“Right now it’s a go, as far as I know,” DeGroot said.

At Hennepin Marine, co-owner Nic Keegan said many boaters are cruising other lakes and rivers.

“Since the DNR has not closed it recently, we’ve had some boaters using the Illinois River,” he said. “It has slowed the season down with the water high.”

The river has fallen and crested several times. The peak crest was June 24 in La Salle at 28.9 feet, nearly 9 feet above flood stage. This week the river is dropping and there is a stretch of dry, sunny weather forecast this week.

This has improved commercial shipping. Last week, traffic had really slowed, said Chris Rush, temporary lockmaster at Starved Rock Lock and Dam.

“We’ve been able to lock them pretty consistently but one of the problems is there is nowhere to park (barges) up above us. The waiting spots are full.”

When the river was even higher this summer, towboats didn’t have overhead clearance to pass beneath the bridge at Ottawa, Rush said.

Flooding is worse to the south. The Illinois River is closed to recreational vessels from Lacon downstream to 5 miles from the confluence with the Mississippi River. The river is closed to all traffic from Mile 90 to Mile 30, from Beardstown downstream to Kampsville, according to the latest notice from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Source: News Tribune