Boneyard Creek, Urbana, IL
Boneyard Creek is sort of tricky to run, as there is a very narrow window of opportunity, and misjudging this window could leave you either sitting with your boat on the bottom in a few inches of water and no hope of forward progress OR you might find yourself smeared across the ceiling of one of the several tunnels that the stream passes through, in which case you'll no longer reside in this world.
The key is fast action, pre-planning, and consultation of live weather radar. The idea is to put in just after a major storm front has popped the water level up. Tornado warnings and watches are good for this, as are any other extreme weather warnings that come with copious quantities of rain. Then, just after the storm front has passed, put in while the water is still high (but not TOO high).
My first run was done at sunset, so it was relatively dark along the route (you need a helmet-mounted water-resistant light anyway for the underground parts). My second run was done earlier in the afternoon, so it was brighter, though overcast. This significance of this is that when you are booking along in flood waters and abruptly go underground, it takes your eyes a while to adjust. I found that during my second run, I was paddling almost blind through the underground sections in spite of my halogen-bulbed Petzl Duo because my eyes could not adapt quickly enough. Fortunately, I had paddled the route before and scouted it on foot several times before in low water conditions. So, I recommend evening runs for safety reasons (you never know when you might encounter an old grocery cart, for example).
While I felt more comfortable on the second run, the water was only barely deep enough, making the waterfall somewhat painful (aching back as I type this). There are several turbulent areas where side streams (storm sewers) come in that can definitely flip your boat, so I'm still not sure what the best water level is.
Special thanks to Mark Wetzel for running shuttle on the second run, and, especially, for taking pictures! I don't know why he wasn't willing to wade into the swift winter floodwaters to take pictures in the underground sections.....
WARNING: Boating in floodwaters is extremely hazardous and unpredictable and may cause serious injury or death. Don't do it. Boating in waters not considered navigable may be considered trespassing. Don't do that either!More information is available on my Boneyard web page, which is here: http://www.nyx.net/~sjtaylor/vadder/boneyard.html.
Created 10 February 2001; Last modified 24 March 2001|