The Secluded Wilderness Cruise
Illinois River, Oregon
It’s not easy to get to the turquoise-green waters of Oregon’s Illinois River, buried deep in the coniferous forests of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, in the southwest corner of the state. But that’s part of the magic. “I’ve seen a total of three people in my last four trips,” says Zachary Collier, the owner of Northwest Rafting Co. Only three commercial outfitters run the Illinois, and each puts in on a different day of the week, meaning paddlers get complete solitude while running this rugged 32-mile swath of Class IV–V whitewater. Collier prefers guests have prior experience, since deep canyons and rock ridges make for challenging paddling. The reward is four days in a wilderness that’s home to black bears, bald eagles, and some 1,800 species of plants—100 of which are found nowhere else in America.
GETTING THERE: The launch point for the Illinois is a five-hour drive from Portland. Alternatively, you can fly into the Rogue Valley airport (MFR), which has direct flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle. After an overnight at Grants Pass near Medford, you get shuttled 1.5 hours though the middle of nowhere to the put-in. —J.M.
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