Kayaking Chicago River

Does anyone have advice for Kayaking the Chicago River? We have an opportunity to travel to Chicago in the next two weeks and would like to take advantage of this unique opportunity. We would use our own kayaks. When I searched online, all I could find were companies for rentals or guided tours.

A little bit
I’ve only paddled there once, and I seem to recall that public shore access is quite limited, complicated by the fact that most of the river bank is corrugated steel. You may have better luck launching from a lakeshore park, then entering the Chicago River thru the locks.

Maybe contact Geneva Kayak for some suggestions:


Some of the shots here are from the Chicago River:


Good Luck!



East put in at Clark Park
You can put in easily at Clark Park 3400 Rockwell St. on east side of the river, south of Addison across from Devry parking lot, from there you can paddle with the current to downtown and go through the loop and city areas. Stay clear of the Webster St. Aeration Station

Pollution control facility produces hazardous aerated water on river left upstream of the Webster St. bridge and on river right on downstream side of the bridge. Avoid paddling through bubbling water."

Pay attention also to the sightseeing tour boats once you get near downtown. For the most part they are very good about no wake and the entire river area is actually a no wake zone. Most of all enjoy it is a great place to paddle.

Where would be a takeout for a trip that originated at the above mentioned Clark Park?

Take out
At the public doc behind Lawrence Fisheries shop 2120 South Canal street. South of Chinatown, there is a public dock there. And have some fired shrimp while you are there :slight_smile:

Lock In
The shortest route to paddle amongst the skyscrapers in the loop is to lock in and out from the lake. If you sea kayak, this is really the best way to go. If you are not up for that, paddling back and forth from Clark Park would be the next option. There are no nearby locations that have good public parking and access to the river.

The alternative would be to take a tour through Kayak Chicago. http://www.kayakchicago.com/ The owner is a great guy and local paddler. Having a guide also is a bonus in that all the buildings and their history have a story to go along with the paddle.

Second the Kayak Chicago suggestion
For the little extra you will pay to take the tour, you will a) learn a lot more and b) have a much better launch site.

And the employees are all really nice.

Geneva Kayak may be doing something, but I don’t know.


chicago river
I’ve paddled this and would recommend that you put in and take out at the public beach near the aquarium. Parking is right there next to the beach and this way you can paddle thru the small boat harbor and then into the river thru the locks-makes it more interesting. When we paddled there was alot of boat traffic but this made the trip even more enjoyable-it was sooooo urban. Somehow it seemed fitting. A paddle that I wouldn’t want to do everyday but really intersting for a country hick like me.

Contact the local Chicago paddlers at http://www.caska.org/home.htm. A number of them paddle that stretch regularly. They know all the secret launches and not so secret ones.


Chicago River
My friends and I last year did this - put in at Clark Park, paddled through the city, out of the locks and onto the lake. It was fun, but the drawback was then paddling back to Clark Park against the current at the end of a very long day. For this reason, I second the idea to launch on the lake if possible and paddle upriver first, then back out. Going through the locks in a kayak is definitely a fun experience!