Salt Creek Water Trails
Salt Creek consists of four sections, each offering a distinct paddling experience. Paddling is also available at Busse Lake located at the northern end of the trail in Ned Brown Forest Preserve (Busse Woods).
The upper watershed begins in Palatine and flows south past Arlington Race Track as an intermittent stream in a narrow channel. The lake section begins where the creek crosses Golf Road (Route 58) and enters Busse Woods Forest Preserve and the 590 acre flood retention area of Busse Reservoir. The dam that creates the reservoir marks the beginning of the middle section through Cook and DuPage counties. This stretch runs through residential areas as well as a number of forest preserves and parks. Sewage treatment plants and flood control structures in DuPage County affect the water quality and present occasional hazards. The lower section begins where the creek re-enters Cook County at the Tri-State Tollway. With the exception of a half mile stretch of the river through Brookfield, the lower section of Salt Creek is owned on one or both banks by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.
Lake Section: Canoes, rowboats, and sailboats are allowed on the South and Main Lake sections of Cook County Forest Preserve District’s Busse Lake. There are public launch ramps for access to both areas. Watercraft rental is available by the hour or day from April through October. Electric trolling motors are allowed; gas outboard motors are not.
Middle Section: While the reservoir collects water from a large watershed north of Golf Road, much of the polluted runoff that is also collected stays in the lake. The water that flows over the top of the dam to begin the middle section of the creek is relatively clean. Most of its course through Elk Grove is through Village Park District property. In DuPage County the creek provides an interesting trip through a mix of forest preserves, local parks, golf courses, and light industrial and residential areas. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is currently developing access points at Salt Creek Park Forest Preserve, Cricket Creek Forest Preserve, and Hunter Drive, which is currently considered the end of the Middle Section of the Salt Creek water trail since Salt Creek enters a private golf course and flows under low bridges south of Hunter Drive. The Elmhurst Park District provides access at Eldridge Park, approximately two miles above Hunter Drive.
Lower Section: Salt Creek re-enters Cook County at the Tri-State Tollway (I-294). Just before entering Cook County, the official Salt Creek water trail begins again, with an access site at Oak Brook Park District’s Dorothy and Sam Dean Nature Sanctuary. Although shallow in spots, the river winds through beautiful Cook County Forest Preserves and land owned by the Brookfield Zoo before its confluence with the Des Plaines River at Plank Road Meadow. This stretch has low banks and several access points in forest preserves. Paddlers are advised to take out at Plank Road Meadow or before. Downstream of Plank Road Meadow paddlers will encounter the site of the former Hofmann Dam. The dam was removed several years ago, but the debris that remains poses a hazard to paddlers.
Explore our interactive map!
Using the interactive map below you have the ability to:
-Zoom in and out using the + and – buttons
-View the water trails through Google maps or satellite image
-Click on a launch site (blue teardrop) for more information on its location and possible trips
-Click on a dam (red diamond) for portage information
-Determine the paddling difficulty of a water trail (Green = Beginner; Yellow = Intermediate; Red = Expert)
Salt Creek Water Trail Descriptions
Skill Level: Beginner
Directions: Located in Busse Woods, owned Forest Preserves of Cook County, Busse Lake in Elk Grove Village is an impoundment of Salt Creek. Row boats, canoes, and kayaks are available for rent at the concession at the Busse Lake boating center. You can also bring your own boat. The lake is open to canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and sailboats. Enter on the south side of Higgins Road (Route 72), approximately 0.25 miles east of I-290.
Notes: Busse Lake is a great place to explore! There are islands that create a varied paddling experience and lots of bird viewing opportunities.
Busse Lake to Cricket Creek Forest Preserve
Skill level: Intermediate to Advanced or Beginner (with an experienced guide)
Length: Approximately 9 miles
Directions: Located on property managed by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, this trip begins below the dam that creates Busse Lake. Enter Ned Brown Forest Preserve from S. Arlington Heights Road. The entrance is on the west side of the road, just to the southwest of the intersection with Landmeier Road, and northeast of the intersection with Elk Grove Boulevard. Follow the entrance road to the fork and take the left fork. Park near the end of the road. This trip requires carrying your boat from the parking lot to the creek approximately 700 feet west.
Put in at Busse Woods upstream of Arlington Heights Road bridge, in the east side of the creek.
Take out at Cricket Creek Forest Preserve before going under the Fullerton Bridge, on river-left.
Notes: This trip will take you through backyards, under bridges, and through the Oak Meadows Golf Course. There is a dam that must be portaged within the golf course about three quarters of a mile downstream of the Elizabeth Road Bridge. You may also encounter low pedestrian bridges within the golf course.
Use caution and portage around any obstacle you do not think you can pass under. Watch for down trees blocking passage.
Cricket Creek Forest Preserve to Hunter Drive
Skill level: Beginner
Length: 7 miles
Directions: Enter Cricket Creek Forest Preserve on the north side of Fullerton Avenue just east of Salt Creek in Addison. The put-in is directly west of the parking lot.
A shorter trip can be had by taking out at the Eldridge Park Canoe Landing (pictured).
The take-out at Hunter Drive is on river-left 0.4 mile downstream of the I-88 bridge at the west end of Hunter Drive, just before the Cermak Road bridge.
Notes: Do not continue downstream of Hunter Drive. The owners of the Butler Golf Course object to paddlers passing through the golf course or portaging the Oak Brook Dam which is 1,000 feet downstream of the 31st Street bridge.
Dean Nature Sanctuary to Plank Road Meadow
Skill level: Beginner to Intermediate depending on water levels & deadfall
Length: 9.25 miles
Directions: Turn east from York Road onto Canterbury Lane and follow the quiet road for approximately 1/3 of a mile to the Dean Nature Sanctuary on the south side of the street. Be advised that Canterbury Lane is a high traffic route for bicyclists.
The Plank Road Meadow Boat Ramp take-out is on river right (on the Des Plaines River) approximately 200 feet south of the river’s confluence with Salt Creek.
Approximately 0.4 mile downstream of the 31st Street Bridge is the Possum Hollow Dam. This low dam is visible only in low water conditions. Paddle through the canoe chute on the river right side of the dam.
An alternate put-in is at the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s Bemis Woods launch site. This can be accessed from Wolf Road approximately 0.2 miles north of Ogden Avenue. The Bemis Woods parking entrance is on the north side of Ogden Avenue. Follow the road to the western end of the parking lot near the creek and put in by the foot bridge.
An alternative take-out is at the Brookfield Village Hall Canoe Landing. This small, minimally improved landing is about 1/3 mile downstream (south) of the Washington Street Bridge on river-left. Parking is available in the lot behind the Village Hall.
Notes: This trip passes through Cook County Forest Preserves and through the west side of Brookfield Zoo. There is no access to the zoo from the water trail.
Please respect the privacy of riparian landowners—no landing on private property.
Bemis Woods to Brookfield Canoe Launch
Skill level: Beginner to Intermediate
Length: Approximately 6 miles
Directions: Bemis Woods, owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, is located on the west side of Wolf Road, approximately 0.4 miles south of 31st Street, in Westchester. Brookfield canoe launch, owned by the Village of Brookfield, is located just north of Brookfield Avenue and east of Forest Avenue, behind the Brookfield Village Hall.
Notes: This trip is a shorter version of the Dean Nature Sanctuary to Plank Road Meadow. It follows one of the oldest greenways in the country, passing through forest preserves, parks, and the Brookfield Zoo, although there is no public access to the zoo from the creek. Approximately 0.4 mile downstream of the 31st Street Bridge is the Possum Hollow Dam. This low dam is visible only in low water conditions. Paddle through the canoe chute on the river right side of the dam.
Please respect the privacy of riparian landowners—no landing on private property.
Land Trail Extension: Salt Creek Greenway Trail
One of the region’s best known trails is the Salt Creek Greenway Trail, which spans two counties of forest preserves, parallels the Salt Creek Water Trail, and provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.
Spanning 25 miles from Busse Woods in Elk Grove Village to the Brookfield Zoo, the Salt Creek Greenway Trail connects 12 communities and over 300,000 residents overall. The trail connect through the Forest Preserves of Cook County as well as the DuPage Forest Preserves.
Whether you explore the Salt Creek by land or on the water, you will pass under shaded canopies, through open prairies and savanna, and through protected Illinois nature preserves along the Salt Creek Greenway Trail.
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