Welcome to the only guidebook for the water trails of Northeastern Illinois!
Paddle Illinois Water Trails is a project of Openlands. Founded in 1963, Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives.
The Northeastern Illinois water trails system encompasses 10 waterways. These water trails offer a variety of experiences, ranging from creeks that flow through densely wooded forest preserves to the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago as seen from Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. The water trails of northeastern Illinois present paddling experiences found few other places in the world.
Openlands developed the Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Trail Plan in 1999 in partnership with Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (today known as the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning), Illinois Paddling Council, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and multiple local government agencies. Grand Victoria Foundation provided essential support for the implementation of the Plan.
Water Trails improve our quality of life by bringing outdoor opportunities and benefits closer to home. Benefits include recreation, stewardship, eco-tourism, education, and economic benefits.
Many thanks to our partners who assisted in implementation of the water trails plan and to the sponsors of Openlands paddling work.