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Areal photo of Vermilion River Wildcats


John Gillio
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A friend gave me this old photo of the Vermilion river. This stretch is now owned by a cement mill and is off limits to shore fishermen. It is part of the river that was closed by the mill for a couple of years but has now been reopened to canoe and kayak traffic. It is still offlimits to the shore angler. This shot was taken before both sides of the river were quarried. I just thought it was kind of neat.

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If you look closely at the downstream part of the river you can see where Bailey creek enters the river. Illinois' most beautiful waterfalls is just to the left behind the trees. It was easily seen from the river. The creek was diverted in 1956 to allow for the quarry, destroying the falls. I will try to locate and post a picture of the falls as it once was. Step falls can be found on the existing creek farther upstream and cannot be seen from the river.I will post a picture when I get a chance. It is a nice falls but does not compare to what Bailey falls was.

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The falls was a very popular spot for the locals at the time. From what I am told there was a nice shelter near it . It was a frequently used picnic area.I never saw it other than in pictures, as it was destroyed the year I was born.

 

The river itself looks much the same as it did then. The narrow area is where the wildcats start. Today it is more narrow and a bit more treacherous than it was due to a landslide that moved some large boulders farther into the channel. This just happened a couple years ago. The wooded areas above the river on both sides as well as the farmhouse are now quarries that have been abandoned for years now.

 

The company that first quarried it supposedly promised that it would restore the area to it's original state when it was done using the land. After a number of new owners, I don't imagine I will ever see it happen.

 

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Images of the wildcats can be found by googling Vermilion River

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There are some beautiful rivers in this state. Among them are the Fox with it's many bluffs, the swift waters of the Kankakee, the wooded banks of the Kish as just recently posted by Terry, and I am sure many others. I may be biased, but I do agree that the stretch of river that runs from Lowell to it's confluence with the Illinois River at Jonesville is among the prettiest and diverse stretches of river in the state. At normal levels much of the river can be cast accross with a seven foot rod and a 1/4 oonce lure. The entire river has wooded shorelines or bluffs with the exception of the cement mill site. At Lowell the river is swift, rocky, and shallow. It soon has bluffs on the left andsome rapids. Deeper pools begin to show up between series of riffles. Rocky or wooded bluffs appear on both sides of the river. There are a couple of little islands with small swift channels around both sides. As you enter into the area bordered by Matthiessen State park and Big Bend Nature Preserve the bluffs are even more pronounced. The river remains very rocky and sandy until you reach the wildcats. The cement mill ownes the property on both sides of the river from about this point. This is where the large boulders become prominent. The river is deeper here and eventually begins to slow as the river widens. The high bluffs are left behind and the boulders subside. The river runs quietly with wooded banks on both sides. Eventually the Mill is seen ahead. A lowhead dam is here. The mill is to the left. Below the dam the boulders make another appearance. The river runs through a series of rapids, pools, and riffles. The boulders become fewer and farther between. Matthiessen Park is once again bordering the river on the right with private land to the left. A nice little island is found here. After a few more riffles the river slows considerably. The Ed Hand bridge appears. The canoe takeout is on the right. From this point downstream the river flows a bit deeper for quite a while. There are sandbars and wooded shorelines with occasional rock outcroppings. On the left will be the remains of another cement mill long defunked.The current cement mill ownes the property to the right. Just downstream from this the river shallows again boulders appear and rapids form, dumping into the deepest pool on this stretch of river. The river shallows to another island and runs quiet, sandy, and shallow from this point . It flows under the Route 71 bridge at Jonesville and into the Illinois Just downstream from Starved Rock State Park and upstream from the Little Vermilion River, another gem of a river with very little public access. In the spring the big Vermilion can be a raging torent. In the fall much of it is a mere trickle. It is many rivers in one.

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And this is why I bought a house within walking distance of the Lowell bridge. When it is high, grab the kayak and run some of Illinois most challenging rapids. When it is up but moving, grab the cat rods. When it slows down, grab the fly rod and waders and hit the holes.

 

What else can you ask for?

 

MM

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  • 5 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

There are a couple of new sand mines moving into the Utica and Starved Rock area. Due to their proximity to Starved Rock State Park, there is a concern that the waters that feed many of the parks falls will flow toward the deep sand pits leaving the falls dry. I hope this never happens . Only time will tell. Back in the 1950s a cement company changed the flow of Bailey Creek leaving Bailey Falls dry. The falls was just downstream from the wildcats. It was easily seen from the river, as it was at the junction of Bailey Creek and the Vermilion River. This is a newly discovered video of the falls as it was in 1937: Imagine seeing this on the river left as you Kayaked by. It's a shame it is gone.http://youtu.be/_SDPQ76QzJI

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Comes to mind...

 

"Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money."

~ Cree Indian Proverb

 

That is more elequent than what I wanted to say... so I'll follow your lead and say "remember the Lorax".

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