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The Northeastern Illinois water trails system encompasses 10 waterways in northeastern Illinois. From urban to rural, easy to challenging, these waterways provide the best of several worlds of paddling. Undisturbed creeks flow through densely wooded forest preserves. Industrial rivers weave among the immense infrastructures of the industrial age. Miles of prairie along the DuPage River provide an unmatched beauty and solitude. And the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago look nowhere more impressive than from a small boat. The water trails of northeastern Illinois present paddling experiences found few other places in the […]

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Calumet Area Water Trails

Overview Water Trails in Calumet comprise a number of connected natural and manmade waterways including both rivers and lakes. Calumet waterways offer a variety of experiences. Thorn Creek and the Upper Little Calumet River are shallow streams with wooded banks, perfect for beginners. The Cal-Sag Channel, Lower Little Calumet, and Calumet Rivers are deep, engineered channels with barge and powerboat traffic, appropriate for experts. Calumet also offers paddling on Wolf Lake and Powderhorn Lake. View and download Openland’s “Experience Calumet Water Trails” Map and brochure here (front) and here (back). […]

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Chicago River Water Trails

Overview The Chicago River is a long, diverse waterway that begins in Lake County. It includes the Skokie River, Skokie Lagoons, the West and Middle Forks of the North Branch, the North Shore Channel, the North Branch, the North Branch Canal (the east channel around Goose Island), the Main Branch in the downtown area of the city, the South Branch, the South Fork of the South Branch (Bubbly Creek), and the Sanitary and Ship Canal leading to the National Historic Site of the Chicago portage area around 47th and Harlem, […]

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Des Plaines River Water Trails

Overview The Des Plaines River begins in Wisconsin, in Racine County, and flows south into Illinois as a small, prairie stream. It runs approximately ninety-five miles through four counties in Illinois, to its confluence with the Kankakee River at Channahon, and forms the Illinois River. Along the way, it changes its character (and legal classification) from prairie stream, to large urban river, to major industrial waterway. At its headwaters, the Des Plaines River, like all rivers in Wisconsin, is considered “navigable” and legally accessible by the public. When the river […]

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DuPage River Water Trails

Overview The DuPage River is a small-to-medium-sized stream flowing north to south through DuPage and Will counties and ending at its confluence with the Des Plaines River in Channahon. The DuPage consists of east and west branches which meet south of Naperville. Together, they make up eighty-four miles of waterway that drain a watershed of 326 square miles. The East Branch is largely channelized and the West Branch is mostly natural and meandering. Scenery along its East and West branches is mostly suburban with low grassy banks, while the DuPage […]

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Fox River Water Trails

Overview The Fox River present a number of varied paddling experiences and demands different skill levels in each section. The Fox River enters Illinois between Spring Grove and Antioch, in Lake County. Approximately three miles below the border, it opens into Grass, Nippersink, and Pistakee Lakes, in the Chain of Lakes area before becoming a banked river again. Through this area, the Fox Waterway Agency manages boat usage and in some areas, for safety and navigational purposes, confines the high speed, powered boat traffic to a series of channels in […]

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Kankakee River Water Trails

Overview Explored by Sieur de La Salle in 1679, the largely rural Kankakee River looks, in some sections, much like it did when he first saw it. The river, one of the cleanest in the Midwest, begins northwest of South Bend, Indiana, near the Michigan border. Probably the most scenic and least populated section of the Kankakee occurs as it enters Illinois (this stretch, however, is not addressed in the Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Trails Plan). Widely used by recreational boaters and fishermen, the Kankakee can occasionally be difficult to […]

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