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Great Places To Kayak

If you happen to live in the Chicagoland area, or plan to visit, we have a number of great places to paddle kayaks. From the city to the suburbs, there's plenty of water. If you have a favorite place you want to share, please let me know!

So before we hit the down and dirty on how to build a kayak, here is my list of places to paddle...

Northern Illinois

  • Roy C. Blackwell Forest Preserve, Silver Lake (Warrenville, IL). This is a small 60 acre lake that is close to home. It is a good place to "test" our new boats and get comfortable with a new boat. The Main Entrance is on the north side of Butterfield Road, 1/4 mile west of Winfield Road and one mile east of Rt. 59. There is a raft/canoe launch on the south side of Mack Road (1/4 mile east of Rt. 59 and two miles west of Winfield Road. Launching from this area is into the West Branch of the DuPage River. You must purchase a district permit to use the lake. Daily permits are $5.00 and annual permits are $25.00 Call (630) 933-7200 for more info.

  • Mallard Lake Forest Preserve (Hanover Park, IL). The 80 acre lake is located on Lawrence Avenue, east of County Farm Roard, west of Gary Avenue and north of Schick Road. Call (630) 933-7200 for more info.

  • Busse Woods Forest Preserve (Elk Grove, IL). Near the Woodfield Mall, this 590 acre lake provides a great place to kayak. The only problem is the lake is rather shallow. In several areas, my paddle touches the lake bottom. Regardless, it is a nice place to paddle for an hour or two. The Busse Woods lake is 1/4 mile east of I290/RT53 at Higgins Road (Rt. 72). No charge.

  • Shabonna State Park and Lake (Shabonna IL). This 320 acre lake is a quiet place to kayak. There's a nice place to put in just 30 yards from the boat launch ramps. Take Highway 30 west (from 88, East-West Tollway). They even have a Shabonna Lake web site. No charge.

  • Chain-of-Lakes State Park. We have not been there yet, but plan to go soon. The park address is 8916 Wilmot Rd. Spring Grove, IL. Paddlers say to take Highway 12 (North) to Wilmont Rd. You should see a canoe shack in the vicinity. (847) 587-5512.

  • Wisconsin Dells. We have not been there with the kayaks yet, but look forward to it!

  • Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area (Yorkville IL). It is located just west of Yorkville, IL on Fox Road. From the Chicago area, take I-55 south, to Illinois Route 126. Take Illinois 126 west to Illinois 47. Take Illinois Route 47 north to the first stop light (there is a Fire Station and snack shop on the corners) and turn left onto Fox Road. Follow Fox Road thru several curves and you will be at the State Park. For more information, 630-553-6297.

  • Sterling lake (Lake County). It is located on the north side of Rosencrans Road (Route 173), just east of Route 41. Non-Powered boats only!

  • The Prairie Coast Paddlers web site provides a number of other kayaking locations near the Chicagoland area.

  • The Windy City Sports web site provides a list of launch sites maintained by the Chicago Recreation Department. I have included them here in case Windy City does not archive them. The descriptions and comments are not mine....

    • Leone Beach Ė (Touhy Avenue just east of Sheridan Road) Itís a nice spot for northsiders and people from the northern suburbs. Itís free, and a lot of spots up north of Chicago have to pay for access on the lake.

    • Wilson Launch Ramp Ė This is an old motorized boat launch ramp that was engineered wrong. Itís perfect for launching kayaks. The water is very low and itís sandy. This is where I personally put in most of time. Itís a great site.

    • Montrose Beach Ė A lot of sailboats go out onto the lake from here. Itís beautiful, a great looking place. The only problem is that itís a longer hike with boat from the car. Itís like a 400-600 yard walk.

    • Montrose Harbor Ė Wind from the north can kick up waves, so for many this is a bad area to access the lake. The docks could be lower. Itís a bit of a drop to the water, but itís nothing you canít overcome. Just to have three launch sites within a mile of each other is great. Everybody is really friendly here.

    • Diversey Harbor Ė Thereís a metal breakwall ridge around this area, so itís hard to access the lake from here. Thereís metered parking and short walk to the spot.

    • 12th Street Beach Ė The biggest issue here is the breakwall that protects Navy Pier. It breaks waves so you can get access straight east onto the lake. Itís still choppy, but not too bad. The parking is bad because of planetarium and the aquarium.

    • 31st Street Beach Ė This would be great if there werenít a hidden breakwall about a foot under the water. There are big cement blocks you can see, and a space between seen and submerged breakwall of about 12 feet. You have to be careful of the submerged breakwall. A strong wave can get you washed up on top of it.

    • 63rd Street Beach Ė This is a great, big area with lots of room to get around. Thereís plenty of room to go out onto the lake, but they should be putting up buoys to limit area to go through.

    • Rainbow Beach Ė This is also a big beach. There are a lot of interesting places to explore just south of there. This spot has waterways with shipping lanes so you have to be careful, but itís very interesting. Thereís good parking here, too.

    • Calumet Park Ė I know thereís a boat ramp there. Iím not familiar with that spot.

    • Clark Park (Chicago River) Ė Itís just south of Addison on the river, right behind Lane Tech High School. Thereís plenty of parking, and you can pull up right to the edge of the river.

    • River Park (Chicago River) Ė This park is at Foster and Argyle, where the Wild Onion Urban Adventure Race ended its canoe session. Itís a nice area, where the natural branch of the river meets the canal. Itís a beautiful little park that was just redone. You donít feel like youíre in Chicago.

  • The Des Moines River Trail - Looks great, check it out.