Kayaking Chicago

When we think of Chicago the city of shining structures, Millennium Park, and deep-dish pizza are likely to think of. Yet Chicago is filled with amazing outdoor activities to discover. Kayaking Chicago boasts a variety of kayaking destinations offering unique views of the cityscape and surrounding natural areas.

Kayaking Chicago - pin

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best places for kayaking in Chicago and great places to kayak out in the middle of the city. We’ve also listed some of the top companies that offer guided tours and rentals of kayaks in Chicago and beyond.

12 Best Places to Go Kayaking in Chicago

Fox River

Fox River

Just an hour and a half away from the city, paddling on the Fox River offers a perfect day trip or weekends getaway. My overnight excursion to the Fox River was a surprising pleasure. The cliffs and the awe-inspiring trees that line the river create an impression of being in another world which is a complete escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The river’s smooth current makes it ideal for groups or families who want to enjoy leisurely fun way. My group of friends and I were lucky to come out with sunny skies and pleasant weather and were able to sit back and paddle across the river for the majority of the way and soak up the sun’s warm rays and cool waves.

In general, the river is extremely shallow and has lots of places along the river for picnicking and recreation or camping. There are campgrounds specifically designed with reserved sites, however, we chose to stay along the river instead, and I could not recommend it more highly. Instead of being squeezed between campers at the typical drive-in camping area, We decided to walk the river’s shores and chose an idyllic and private location to establish our camp.

Fox River - 2

There are plenty of convenient places to pitch your tent We found an ideal spot that offered breathtaking perspectives of the water as well as an abundance of lush vegetation. It is essential to bring all the camping equipment you’ll need for the journey however it’s worth the effort to enjoy a night at the river. The rocky ground makes for a less-than-comfortable sleep though, so pack a mat or inflatable.

The Fox River is the ideal remedy for burning out in the city. It’s close enough for a day trip in case you don’t wish to stay the night and the stunning riverside camping is the perfect overnight getaway for weekenders. It’s the Fox River also has a long and rich history. A cruise through the waters will make you feel awestruck for a long time. Famous French Explorers Rene-Robert Cavelier and Sieur de LaSalle sailed through its waters in the 1600s. Before this, Native Americans inhabited the area. When you are paddling today, you’ll be able to spot an impressive hilltop memorial that honors those who fought in the Fox Wars.

Goose Island

Goose Island

The Chicago River divides into two branches between the neighborhoods of Wicker Park and Old Town, before rejoining near River North. As a result, Goose Island was formed, and the name was popularized by a Chicago beer brand of the same name.

Here kayaking offers a unique experience, as it’s quieter and more local than the downtown areas. Chicagoans from Wicker Park and Old Town begin to replace tourists here as the crowds wane.

In addition, the city of Chicago plans to develop the “Wild Mile” here, a floating conservation area that’s still being developed. Chicago River kayaking offers a more relaxed experience here than closer to the Loop.

Read also:  Best Kayaks for Dogs

The Magnolia Street location of Kayak Chicago has kayak rentals available. Double Kayak rentals, lessons, and guided tours are also available.

The Loop


Think of the Loop as Chicago’s Manhattan. It’s bustling, beautiful, and never empty of people and cars. The Loop also boasts one of the highest amounts of lodgings in Chicago and, consequently, the highest number of tourists. With ease towards Millennium Park and Navy Pier, It’s easy to comprehend how this Chicago kayaking area is so well-known!

It is also home to a number of restaurants. Loop has a bustling Riverwalk which is lined with eating establishments, seating areas, and a few parks that are open all day to visitors. There are several businesses offering kayak tours and rentals along The Chicago River. It is said that the Loop can be the most sought-after location to kayak Chicago since it’s the center of the city. Furthermore, these sections of the Chicago River give amazing access to some of the most stunning perspectives of Chicago.

Where can you rent kayaks at The Loop: Urban Kayak is a well-known kayak rental service that is situated in the center of The Loop. They offer a Sunset kayak trip is a favorite choice especially on the warmest days of summer!

Chicago River

Chicago River

Chicago River – оne of the most ideal places to go when you’re looking to paddle through urban life, with glittering high-rises looming across its Loop. It’s a busy waterway, dotted with water taxis, commercial vessels, and tour boats. Therefore, it’s advised that you possess a good level of paddling ability and previous experience.

Due to the increase in traffic, This is not the best option for newbies.

An ideal place to launch your kayak is Ping Tom Memorial Park Chinatown in Chinatown, where you can rent kayaks and then paddle for two miles through the city. There’s also a kayak rental at along the Chicago River Walk, just north of Millenium Park.

Kayaking is an extremely well-known activity in Chicago however, many people just think of exploring the river inside the city. It is true that the Chicago River is a wonderful alternative that is in the lower part of this list, however, kayaking on Lake Michigan is truly a secret gem. There are launch locations that are free across the lake which makes it extremely easy to launch your craft at an appropriate location. If you don’t own the boat of your choice or can’t afford one, you can lease one from North Avenue Beach.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

If you’re looking for a great view of the Chicago skyline, Lake Michigan is one of the Great Lakes. You can find many beaches and launch sites within easy distance of downtown. Lincoln Park’s North Avenue Beach is a great place to launch boat traffic into the lake. During the summer months, it gets crowded at the beach.

View the city from a new perspective by paddling along the shoreline south. If you’re a beginner, you should be aware that the lake can get quite choppy during windy days, and there can be other boats around, which may make it less relaxing.

One of the great aspects of kayak Chicago is the fact that the majority part of its waterfront has open to public access. When the season of summer (finally) is here I enjoy every minute of the gorgeous beaches and sun-filled days. If you’re able to access kayaks, you aren’t limited to the beach. A trip to the coast is a unique and exciting method to explore the city with breathtaking skyline views all along the coastline and miles of beaches that you can explore.

If you’re considering giving this a go, be sure to research the weather and conditions before you go. Lake Michigan isn’t your usual lake with its waves that can rise to some pretty impressive highs. Be ready for anything that might happen Make sure you wear life vests and safety lighting if you’re planning to go on a night cruise. Be conscious of boaters always, and especially drunk ones. Even if you’re boat legally is in the right be aware that certain boaters don’t pay at all; keep clear of their path and stay on the shore and stay clear of any accidents.

Read also:  Best Kayaking Spots

River North

River North

The Chicago River separates the bustling Loop from its tranquil neighbor, River North. If you want peaceful and quiet urban kayaking, is an excellent option. Explore the famous Merchandise Mart that was part of Kennedy family members. Kennedy family. You can also paddle continue up towards the former manufacturing facilities on the Chicago River.

For the ultimate experience of both worlds, definitely combine a kayaking trip with an excursion to the more crowded Loop region.

Fortunately, you can stay clear of the chaos that is The Loop and rent a kayak from the river’s edge within River North. Wateriders is located just 10 minutes to Merchandise Mart by foot, is the best choice to rent a kayak in the River North area.

Busse Woods

Busse Woods

Just a few minutes to the west just a short drive west O’Hare Airport, Busse Woods is an ideal location to spend your time in the woods, surrounded by wildlife. The 457-acre lake has tranquil waters that are perfect for families and beginners. It’s also great for fishing thanks to the largemouth bass walleye, largemouth bass, as well as Northern pike all being well-known fish to catch.

You can begin your kayak from Busse Lake Boating Center. Busse Lake Boating Center in which you can also lease kayaks in case you don’t have your own.

Independence Grove

Independence Grove

Nearly 40 miles from downtown Independence Grove features a lake of 115 acres that is an ideal location for an enjoyable paddle, regardless of whether you’re an experienced paddler or just want to relax in the outdoors.

There is a possibility to rent kayaks at the marina or start your own canoe or kayak by using the launch for boats. Along with enjoying the water, there’s access to the river from Independence Grove to the Des Plaines River for those searching for a river paddling trail.

Des Plaines River

Des Plaines River

There is a Des Plaines River that stretches 133 miles from Wisconsin through Illinois until it joins the Kankakee River and then an Illinois River. There are many paddling miles to choose from if you’re looking for a longer excursion. However, you are also able to paddle along in shorter segments.

The best place to launch from is the canoe launch near the North Bay Pavilion in Independence Grove Forest Preserve. There’s a take-out about two miles downstream on Oak Spring Road.

Skokie Lagoons

Skokie Lagoons

It is the Skokie Lagoons are an interesting and simple paddle system of turning and twisting channels that connect seven lagoons that are part of the Skokie River. They are narrow I prefer this the way I paddle through the low-hanging branches of trees and shoelace streams makes them feel more intimate. Being able to enjoy the natural world in close proximity to the city is a wonderful alternative for a relaxing afternoon that’s suitable for both pets and kids.

The excitement of walking through the thick and splintering paths that make up The Skokie Lagoons is perfect for children. The excitement of finding your way is an excellent way to instill a child’s enthusiasm for exploring outdoors and the general simplicity of the system makes it a simple and enjoyable task for young youngsters. However, this relaxing and relaxing paddling may leave experienced kayakers craving more.

Tampier Lake

Tampier Lake

Tampier Lake can feel like an oasis away from the bustle and hustle in downtown Chicago and is an ideal spot to enjoy a peaceful paddle. It is located in the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Tampier Lake features calm flat waters that are perfect for paddlers of all levels. Tampier Lake is also an excellent spot for fishing as well as birdwatching.

Read also:  How to Fillet a Bass

There’s an access point for boats in the Tampier Lake Boating Center, which is where you can also hire kayaks and buy fishing equipment.

North Branch

North Branch

Without leaving the city, you can paddle the North Branch of the Chicago River. Kayaks can be rented and launched along many of the banks.

North Branch Kayaks can be launched at River Park, and from there it’s just a two-mile paddle downstream (through mostly natural surroundings) to Clark Park or you can turn around and paddle back.

When you stop for a meal at a restaurant in the Cove section, there is a kayak dock. You will see both urban and natural settings along the Riverwalk. You can North Branch paddle past busy patios for a truly unique experience, as there are plenty of bars and restaurants in the area.

Kayak Rentals And Tours Around Chicago

There are a variety of places to rent kayaks or canoes throughout Chicago Some of them provide guided tours.

  • Urban Kayaks one of the more well-known Chicago kayak rental firms, Urban Kayaks offers rentals in the Chicago River and also in Monroe Harbor.
  • Kayak Chicago (Chicago river kayak tours) is among the largest companies that rent kayaks in Chicago and has three locations in North Avenue Beach, Goose Island along Montrose Beach.
  • Wateriders – Wateriders is a small Chicago kayaking company that is located within River North. They provide tours and rentals from a less-crowded riverwalk.
  • Chicago River Canoe and Kayak – have kayak rentals available in many locations on the Chicago river outside, including a few of the locations listed that we’ve listed! They’re the cheapest rental service we’ve listed here and prices start at just $20/hour.
  • Tampier Lake Boating Center (Tampier Lake – rentals)

Top 10 Paddling Safety Tips

Top 10 Paddling Safety Tips
  1. Wear a personal floatation device.
  2. Learn to paddle at the Coast Guard Auxiliary or the American Canoe Association (ACA).
  3. Request a free Vessel Safety Exam (VSC) for paddling craft through the Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons.
  4. Larger vessels might not be able to maneuver when operating. Be sure to keep a safe distance from them, and preferably in areas that are not shipping channels. Don’t think they will be able to see you.
  5. Industrial and commercial vessels require lots of duration to stop and change direction.
  6. Keep towards the right.
  7. Give yourself extra time and space for crossing the river. If crossing a channel, cross quickly.
  8. Allow larger boats to sail through and the wake will recede in the event that you are not sure of the ability of your paddle to get through the waves.
  9. Night paddlers must illuminate their navigational lights in accordance with the Navigation Rules International inland (COMMANDANT Instruction M16672.2D).
  10. You can carry a water-proof, handheld FM marine radio VFH. This kind of radio comes equipped with multiple channels, which include channel 16 which is the internationally-operated distress channel. It also has a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is a different useful communication device that transmits a continuous distress signal after activation.


Kayaking through the skyscrapers and bustling dining areas is an extraordinary experience that should not be missed when you are planning to visit Chicago. If you’ve had an experience in paddling, a trip to the open lakes that lie on Lake Michigan makes for an exciting experience. We suggest contacting at least one of these kayak hire companies that we have listed above to find more information about tours, kayak rentals, and classes prior to your journey to Chicago.

Our best posts:

Leave a Comment