Enhancing the Lake Michigan Water Trail from North Chicago to the Wisconsin border – Your Input is Needed!

Openlands has partnered with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management Program (CMP) and the municipalities of North Chicago, Beach Park, Waukegan, Winthrop Harbor, and Zion to create a plan to expand and enhance the Lake Michigan Water Trail; specifically, the 10 mile section from North Chicago to the Wisconsin border. The goal is to connect local communities and visitors to Lake Michigan through programming and trail-improvement. We believe this will result in a well-used water trail that brings quality of life, economic, and stewardship benefits to the adjacent communities.

To realize benefits of enhancing the trail, we are in the process of prioritizing projects that will help make the trail safe, equitable, and thriving.

  • By safe we mean the trail will have ample information to allow citizens to make educated decisions about where and when to paddle. Training and guided trips will allow paddlers of all skill levels to experience the trail.
  • By equitable we mean a water trail that is accessible to children and adults of diverse backgrounds, skill levels and abilities and creates paddling opportunities for adjacent communities, even those without their own equipment.
  • By thriving we mean a well-used trail that inspires active stewardship, allowing ecosystems to flourish and that draws visitors, strengthening local economies.

With funding from CMP and REI, we have held 5 local paddling events, organized several planning meetings with local governments, businesses, and community leaders, and conducted a survey of paddlers that attended local events.

As we continue to work towards creating a plan to make this Lake Michigan Water Trail a reality, we would love to have your input on potential projects necessary to realize the vision of a safe, equitable and thriving trail and on the benefits and challenges of enhancing the trail.

Please follow this link to help us prioritize projects suggested at a meeting of stakeholders in Spring 2019, suggest additional projects and let us know what you think the benefits and challenges are to enhancing the trail.


For more information, please contact

Volunteer with Forest Preserves of Cook County’s Community Paddling Program

The Forest Preserves of Cook County and the Cook County Department of Public Health have started an innovative, ground breaking program to make paddling accessible to beginners, groups, and those who do not own their own boats through a community paddling initiative, the Greater Maywood Paddling Program and Kayak Gear Library.  The program provides opportunities for organized groups within the Maywood community to connect to nature and water through kayaking experiences. Group leaders of participating community partners will be trained on kayaking, use and care of kayaking gear and how to lead groups on kayaking trips. Once certified, trained leaders will have access to the use of the Kayak Gear Library which has the supplies for an organized group paddling trip.

Learn more…

For more information, please contact

Photo: Wilderness Inquiry