Downtown Chicago Launch Spots

Chicagoans, please assist.

What is the very closest legal put-in/take-out for kayak to Millennium Park/Grant Park area in downtown Chicago? I will be staying on the corner of Wacker and State Street.

Is there a put-in directly on the Chicago River by the State Street bridge? Is there a beachy put-in south of Adler PLanetarium? Is it legal to put-in at Oak Street Beach or in Lincoln Park (that si quite a bit farther north) and paddle out from the zoo area?

I do not belong to any Chicago area paddling clubs, so cannot get this answer, rather not email or call them right now, so I decided to ask here on Pnet. Thank you.

Did a quick search…

– Last Updated: Apr-08-07 9:05 PM EST –

Hope this helps...

Location: the launch used for putting-in and taking-out was the Chicago River Rowing and Paddling Center dock, located on the south bank of the Chicago River on the river walk level at Lake Shore Drive. (This is not a public water trails site, but is maintained and used by a private paddling club) For club information, see

Nice picture. I think you can see a part of Millineum park before it was Millineum park.

I am getting my canoe soon so do you need some canoers?

If you Google the Chicagoland
Canoe Base, they used to have a page or two on their website about paddling the Chicago/Desplains river system. And if you call them, they may have info on launching where you want to be.

A long-time-ago Chicagoan.

Are you going up for a conference
or something. If so, here is something to think about. If you are staying in a downtown hotel and your taking your kayak, where will you park when you have your kayak on the truck. Most of the downtown hotels have the own or use area parking ramps. These ramps will not be high enough to get in to. If you are going to be staying overnight call ahead and see if the can find you other (safe) parking.

Or- you can leave your yak in my
garage and pick it up the next day. I’m 23 miles north of the Loop.

Chicago put in
Very near Soldier Field, which is south of Grant Park, there is a small protected cove called the 13th St. Beach. Unless there is a major event on Northerly Island (f/k/a Meigs Field) one can find a spot in the parking lot ($$) where you can get about 100 yards from the water. I’ve put in there on a Sunday morning and it is a very pleasant launch site with some facilities nearby in season.

This avoids the locks on the Chicago River and provides a somewhat sheltered start to Lake Michigan’s water. You can also launch at one of the harbors (Diversey Harbor is probably the closest about 3-4 miles north of downtown) but it over a retaining wall versus a sand beach. Our paddling club launches/takeouts there on Tuesday evenings.

I think it’s 12th St. beach
Is there also a 13th St beach?

It’s 12th Street

– Last Updated: Apr-10-07 3:56 PM EST –

That's 12th Street Beach, immediately south of the planetarium - the parking fee is pretty reasonable (cash only) compared to a lot of places downtown. You'll drive right past the Field Museum to the lot just southeast of the Adler Planetarium. If you get there early, you should be fine. Try to park as close as you can to the southeast corner because the beach is that direction. Check with the lifeguards, but usually you have to put in at the far south end of the beach. It's a fairly long carry.

Notice the submerged posts (proper name?) that make a breakwater for the beach. You can paddle right over the top of them if it's calm but not a good idea in conditions.

When are you planning on paddling chicago? I’ve always wanted to see downtown from that perspective. If you would accept company let me know.

Not that it has anything to do with where to launch from, but when are you going? I launched off the 12th St. Beach a couple of times last summer. Parking was $15-20 for the day.

Also good points made about downtown parking. I cannot get my Yukon into many of the parking ramps with the saddles on the roof, much less a boat.

FYI, if you are coming anytime within the next month or two, bring a drysuit. The water temp right now is 43°F.

NOrserner and Rusty
Is there a weekend in June or July that works for you?

Any weekend in June other than the first two, and the first two weekends in July work great. Could also make it in May.

As I mentioned above, I’ve never seen downtown chicago from the water but I’ve wanted to for quite awhile. Let me know what you think or you can email me also.

Consider coming up June 1-3 for the Windy City Kayak Symposium. You can improve your skills and paddle Chicago at the same time.

My last 2 weekends of June are free as of yet, paddling elsewhere every other weekend of June and July. We are talking about doing a 30 miler along Chicago’s north shore on June 30th.

Can you provide details about the symposium?




– Last Updated: Apr-15-07 7:37 PM EST –

Hi Don: check out this link, and then hit Instruction.

You both mention last two weeks of June as good. How about Saturday June 23rd? Maybe put in 15-20 miles along lakefront, and that'd be a nice preamble for your 30 miler up north a week later, Rusty123.

Thanks for the Chucago Sympoisium info, I wish I could go but not a free weekend.

I really want to try out my new Nordkapp in spray and soup.

might work for me
I have that weekend open. Are you also considering going into the city a bit via the Chicago river? Let me know what you think.

!2th Street Beach
I checked out the beach today. It sure looks like an excellent place to put in.

Question…If I want to go on the river and see the skyscrapers upclose, will I have to go thru locks?

Last year I took the advice of Chicagoland Canoe Base and put in at Clark Park 3400 N. Rockwell St. There is a Park District canoe landing there. Ther is also a warning sign stating that you should have no contact with the water due to polution.I was told it’s only a 45 minute paddle to the skyscrapers. Wrong! It took over 2 hours with the WORST smell and filthy water. There were no places to stop for bodily functions. Vertical walls made take out impossible. The 2 guys I paddled with and myself all agreeded that 2 days later the smell was still in our noses. After we arrived at the skyscrapers we had to turn around and go back bedause we needed toilets and to jsut get off the filthy water.

I have high hopes for the 12th street beach landing. It’s shorter to the river and less odor.

Parking lot rates at the Planaterium parking lot are $10.00 before 9:30 and $15.00 later. It’s $8.00 after 4 p.m. Must leave the lot by 11:00.

Yes, you have to go thru the lock to get to the river. You only move up or down a couple of inches so it happens quick (in comparison, anyway…). Stay together and know the rules before you get there. You will have to hang onto one of the lines on the side of the lock, and it’s best to raft up together.

There are no places to take out while you’re downtown, so it can be a long trip - but an incredible experience too.

Chicago Flatwater Classic

Here’some pictures from 2003. This year, 2007, it will be on Sunday September 16. It has a 7.25 mile course starting at Clark “Extreme stinkwater” park and goes to Memroail Park in Chinatown, wherever that is. Course takes 1.5 - 2 hours to complete (I’m reading from the downstate Mackinaw Canoe Club info). It goes through the Chicago River.

Anyone know about this? How can a race be run where there is a lock to get on the river? Isn’t this the stinkwater… filthy, putrid and aweful–that the above poster mentions? Is this really a race or just a meandering group trip? And most importantly, is this a down and back, or are hundreds of shuttle vehicles parked in Chinatown first? A down and back (still only 14 plus miles) would seem doable, if they let you reverse and go against the grain of lallygaging paddlers. Thoughts?

Chicago area paddlers: I and M Canal
See the post in Getting Together about the Channahon, IL I and M Canal paddle in one week with bruce and I. we do this paddle twice a year (two different sections) and I have never seen as pretty a location, or as many paddling variations, in all of northern IL. Frankly, bruce and I are always dumbfounded that more kayakers from Chicagoland don’t make the trek down as it is close, and splendid paddling–choose big river versus calm canal. Many towns to paddle by, plenty to see (homes, communities, bikers and runner, etc), bridges, dams, it’s really superb.

Anyone interested in a full day of paddling, well-worth your short drive, come on down to Channahon, IL and learn a new spot. We’d love to have Chicagolanders join.