Chicago area paddling??

Hello folks,

Well gotta ask a simple question. What is the paddling (sea kayaking) like around Chicago? It looks like we might be moving (reluctantly) from the beauty of the Pacific Northwest to Chicago. We enjoy our paddling venues out here and we’re hoping we get surprized by some great paddling in Chicago.

So what advise do you have for us? Is there good paddling in that area? Is it all flat water or are there venues of rougher stuff? Any BCU 4* type venues in the area? Would we be able to utilize “British Style Boats” in that area?

Please, please… Any advise would be appreciated.

Thank you!!

Try this
Chicago area Sea Dayakers Assoc. at

I do not know anything about them just saw thier web page.

also contact Mackinaw Canoe Club at I paddle with them once and they seemed to be a nice group of people. They are spread out form the central part of the state up to Chicago and have several trips per month. some trips are in Illinois some in surronding states. One this you MUST try is the Current river in MO. It is part of the National senic riversways system. Spring feed clear, cool water.

Hope this helps.

Lake Michigan
I suspect that Lake Michigan will offer the most challenging open water venue for sea kayaking. But also I believe Illinois is chock full of lakes and rivers, large and small.

Living near the salt, I can understand your trepidation. When I was younger I moved off the coast for six years to Iowa. What a culture shock!

I think you’ll do ok though. I’ve been to Chicago several times, even recently and it’s a great city with a very young vibe. If my job forced me to Chicago, things could be worse.

Good Luck


Depending on where you settle…
Most of the Northshore communities, Evanston through Lake Forest, have paddle and sail beaches where you can store your equipment at Lake Michigan with access to lockers and rescue teams.

Skokie Lagoons is a big kayak spot on the Northshore.

Any other questions please feel free to email me.


Illinois, I’ve been informed, has more miles of rivers than any other state. The Mississippi runs the entire length of the state in the west and the Ohio in the south. Northeastern Illinois has the Des Plaines, Fox, DuPage, Rock, Chicago and Nippersink rivers.

The Skokie Lagoons in Winnetka are great for recreational kayaking.

My wife and I are new to kayaking and have been doing mostly recreational kayaking. However, I have seen many experienced paddlers struggle with tempermental Lake Michigan conditions at times.

Wisconsin also has an abundance of rivers within a few hours of Chicago; some with higher class rapids.

Check out the books on kayaking locations in Illinois and Southern and Northern Wisconsin by Mike Svob.

Midwest paddling

– Last Updated: Jul-27-04 7:41 PM EST –

Lake Michigan in Chicago has many access points from the Chicago beaches. Also the north shore (as someone else stated) has good access, but usually requires a daily launch fee. In Chicago, there is a lot of sailboat/powerboat traffic and tour boats (huge) in the downtown area, and I would stay away from there.
I have paddled Door County (WI) and it offers a lot of oppurtunity for overnight trips. (5-6 hours from Chicago).
Great paddling on Lake Superior. Pictured Rocks and Grand Island, Isle Royale National Park in The UP of Michigan. Tha Apostle Islands in North WI. The North Channel and Georgian Bay On Lake Huron. Thats for starters. Welcome to Chicago.
Lake Michigan in the fall can really kick up.4-6' waves are not uncommon with Northeasters.

Different than PNW, but lots of paddling
here in the Chicago area. A lot of smaller streams, but also some large bodies of water. Powercraft are also plentiful, so off hours and off season is recommended for some venues.

We belong to Prairie State Canoeists. There are plenty of yaks in the club and trips almost every weekend. Really nice folks and ACA instructors in the club. There are members from IL,WI,MI,IN.

Where will you be living in the Chicago area? It’s larger than Seattle and takes a bit of time to get around. Are you locked into a place to live yet or can you still choose? We have friends who moved from Seattle to this area and they get in plenty of paddling.

Welcome to the midwest! We have more places to paddle than time to do it, so you should be able to stay busy. Especially if you add a creek boat to your fleet.

Big Thank You to all that responded.
Keep your fingers crossed for me. At this time, it would appear my hubby and I will be in Chicago by this fall (if not much sooner).

Thanks again! Information has been GREAT

Paddling the Chicago Area
There are plenty of rivers wihin 2 hour drive of Chicago and depending on your expertise, it is wise to connect up with a canoeing club that knows the rivers and you have help in case of an upset or a bad decision. One such club is the Illini Downstreamers who schedule a trip nearly every weekend. They stay local and go up into Wisconsin or Michigan for white water and week long trips. They have gone as far as Montana (Missouri River), Texas (Rio Grande) Utah (Green River), Missouri (the Current, Eleven Point), Arkansas (Buffalo)…If you’d like a contact, call 815-639-1080.