Illinois River Float Trip (Sailboat Style): The Details


Rhapsody departed her slip at 1025 bound for the confluence of the Arkansas and Illinois Rivers, an upstream journey of some 20-25 miles according to the charts.  I hailed Lock 16 (the upstream lock) to determine the stream flow and was informed they were releasing 32,200 CFS, so I would have to battle more current than is optimal.

Time Waypoint Distance (NM)
1025 Slip 0
1208 Vian Creek Light 11.5
1435 I-40 Bridge 17.6
1455 Downstream Entrance 18.3 (Grounded)
1550 Anchor Down via upstream channel 18.9

Entering the Illinois is a bit tricky.  Fellow Sailor Bill Lansdell entered via the downstream channel and running in the center of the channel reported minimum depths of five feet.  I tried to enter that channel and immediately went aground, but was following advice to stay 1/3 the width of the channel off the east bank.

Once back out in the Arkansas, I approached the upstream channel from approximately SE and never hit less than eight feet until my depth sounder quit!  I made it in, following the advice of fishermen, and anchored in 12 feet of water half way between two little islets.  We traveled 18.9 NM (@ 2,700 RPM) in 4 hours and 45 minutes.  That evening I repaired my depth sounder for the journey back.  The holding in the Illinois is tricky.  My Danforth would not set, so I deployed my 25 pound CQR it held.  The prudient boater needs to be mindful that when the Tenkiller dam released water, there is a significant current that will over ride (at least for full keel boats) the prevailing wind in most cases.  Also, the water is cold.

Anchor up at 0755 and from the looks of it the CRQ did not truly “dig in”.  It appeared to have just sat on the bottom!  We were in the Arkansas River by 0815.  The depths encountered upon exiting the Illinois were sufficient to most vessels, anywhere from 8.5 – 12 feet with a center of the channel course.  Upon exiting the Illinois I was attempting to determine a more precise approach/exit so I headed directly at the Nun marking the right ascending channel.  This approach is not for the faint of heart.  I was just outside the main channel and in FOUR feet of water, leaving about a foot or foot and a half of water under Rhapsody’s keel.  The Approach taken the day before is much more favorable.

Lock 16 reported a release of 32,200 cfs and at 2500 RPMs Rhapsody was making 5.4 kts (a push of 1 knot from current).

Time Waypoint Distance (NM)
0755 Anchor up 0
0815 Arkansas River Channel .5
0915 Stoney Point 6.3
1015 Vian Creek Light 11.2
1108 Sallisaw Creek Light 15.8
1145 Applegate Cove Marina 18.5

We had run 18.5 NM with an average speed of 5.0 kts (@ 2,500 RPM) in 3 hours and 41 minutes.


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