DES PLAINES RIVER

This sprawling river travels 95 miles through four Illinois counties, allowing for plenty of customizable route options for kayakers. The river continues to grow in size as it winds south, moving at a moderately fast pace and requiring some navigation in areas. This makes it a good trip for more experienced kayakers.

Paddlers will travel through plethora of green space, including Adler Memorial Park, Riverside Park, McArthur Woods Forest Preserve, Schiller Woods North Forest Preserve and more.

FOX RIVER

The Fox River stretches more than 100 miles through Illinois, many of which are ideal for kayaking. Paddlers can meander through forest preserves, bustling downtowns and scenic natural areas. There are plenty of launch sites throughout the Fox Valley area, allowing kayakers to customize their trip for ability level and location.

Portages around dams are necessary in several areas, including McHenry, Algonquin, Carpentersville, Kimball Street, Elgin, St. Charles, Geneva, Aurora, Montgomery and Yorkville.

SKOKIE LAGOONS

This Cook County waterscape is perfect for kayakers seeking a peaceful retreat. Visitors can wind their way through the network of pools, channels and islands that span Winnetka, Northfield and Glencoe. Keep an eye out for diverse wildlife, including coyotes, minks, foxes and herons.

Public boat launches on Tower Road provide direct access to the flat, open water. Most boaters stay within the three main lagoons, but you can also explore other areas by portaging around low dams or dikes.

GALENA RIVER


Once a jam-packed passage for steamboats and barges, the Galena River has been restored and transformed into a peaceful oasis. The Galena area is a popular tourist destination, and the river has become a major draw for kayaking and canoeing.

You can see remnants of the area’s industrial past along the river. The river passes by an abandoned single-track railroad tunnel, where you can get out of the water and explore on foot. There are also plenty of creatures that call the river home, including muskrats, eagles and deer.

BUSSE LAKE

Kayakers can truly get away from it all at Busse Woods. This calm, open lake is a perfect spot for a relaxing day on the water. Tucked away in Busse Woods, the lake
is a serene spot for kayakers of all ability levels. The gentle current makes it an ideal trip for beginners and families.Visitors can paddle around tiny islands in search of wildlife such as egrets and great blue herons. The lake is also an excellent spot for fishing, with a teeming population of walleye, muskies, largemouth bass and bluegills.

DUPAGE RIVER

The western branch of the DuPage River is a small but fast-moving waterway. One of the highlights is passing through Naperville’s Riverwalk, a bustling urban park and a great spot to stop for lunch. The rest of the branch meanders through scenic forest preserves.

The middle section of the branch from Lion’s Park to McDowell Grove is a relaxing, tree-lined stretch that’s doable for any ability level. Float farther south to enjoy more of the natural scenery, but be ready for a major portage around Fawell Dam.