Water access in Illinois


Illinois has one of the most restrictive river access laws in the United States. Those of us who enjoy canoeing or kayaking have very few rivers legally available to them. We can paddle the Mississippi, the Fox, the Rock, the Illinois, but those are wide, sluggish rivers that don’t have the beauty or the feeling of seclusion that narrow, meandering, wooded rivers have. The Midwest is full of these smaller rivers and we are welcome to paddle them in most states, but not in Illinois.

Recently a bill was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly that would make most of these smaller rivers available to us. It is HB 5844. This is our first opportunity in memory to gain access to a natural resource that should be everyone’s to enjoy.

Open Lands has created a web page to conveniently contact your State Representative to express your support for this bill. The page is Tell State Lawmakers To Protect Your Waterway Rights! . Whether or not you are an avid paddler, please go to this page, contact your State Representative and tell him/her that you want him to support this bill. It will take you less than five minutes, and it could make all the difference.

If you are so inclined – and I really hope you are – please feel free to repost this and forward it to your family and friends. The more people who support this, the more likely it is that we can effect the change we are hoping for.

Thank you so much.

Steve LaPorte


Ease of water access varies in Maryland. The Gunpowder River feeds and drains two municipal water reservoirs north of Baltimore. Since much of the river flows through park land, the water remains cool and clean enough to support trout. The section between the reservoirs is used for tubing and fishing, and the section below the lower reservoir meanders gently for serveral miles until it turns into mild class I & II, with one class III section near the fall line. At the railroad bridge north of Route 40, located east of Baltimore, the river becomes tidal. White water sections are passable during Spring. We painted a line on a bridge to show when the choke points were passable. The river is overflow from the municipal water resevoir.

There were many areas below the Lock Raven Resevoir suitable for launching canoes and kayaks; however, most areas that gave a full run of the river were posted no parking or stopping, and it was enforced. Fortunately, the tidal section is accessable from the free launch at Mariner Point Park in Joppatowne. Baltimore and Harford Counties have a number of free launches for for power boats and “car top” style boats.

The best county near Baltimore is Anne Arundel County, which has many free launches. Additionally, “car top” style boats can be launched anywhere public land boarders roadways, provided that launching or parking/stopping is not posted as restricted.

The Eastern Shore has a wide distrubution of boat launches; however, most counties have annual permit fees and sticker requirements. I’m not famiar with the western counties, except for free river access and parking along much of the C&O Canal tow path. The Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers have some dangerous sections.

Thanks for posting. Signed and shared with my other social networks.

1 Like


Letter is not sent for out of state residents.

Thank you for your efforts.

That link is for State Representatives; nonresidents don’t have a State Rep. But you can still share your thoughts with the Governor.(Be sure to mention that nonresidents who come to Illinois to paddle buy gas and food, stay in motels and campgrounds and generally contribute to the state’s economy.)

You can contact Governor Pritzger at Voice an Opinion - Contact Us