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Bunker Hill to River Park - Paddle Illinois Water Trails

Bunker Hill to River Park

  • Skill Level:Beginner to Intermediate (depending on water level & obstructions)
  • Trail Length:6.55 miles
  • Waterway Trail:Chicago River Water Trails
Beginner, Chicago River Water Trails, Medium Trips

Bunker Hill to River Park

Directions: Enter Bunker Hill Forest Preserve on the west side of Caldwell Avenue (Route 14) at Tonty Street in Chicago. Make the first left turn into the south parking lot and go to the end of the lot. Follow the path at the south end of the turnaround to the footbridge over the North Branch. The put-in is on either side of the footbridge.

The take-out is on river right just upstream of the control dam that marks the end of the natural section of the North Branch in River Park.

Notes: A longer trip can be had by portaging around the dam and continuing 2.28 miles downstream to the Clark Park Canoe Launch. River Park offers events for paddlers.

The first section of this trip passes through the 160 acres granted to Billy Caldwell, also known as Sauganash. Caldwell was one of the three Pottawatomi signers of the 1835 Treaty of Chicago which removed all local indigenous tribes to west of the Mississippi River.


Chris Hyberger
March 26, 2021

Hello. Why is the stretch of the North Branch starting at Clark Park north to River Park rated at expert level (red)? Looks pretty straightforward. Look forward to your replies.

March 26, 2021

Hi Chris, It’s rated expert due to the traffic you see on the river regularly on that stretch. Hope this helps. Thanks! – Openlands

Zack Nauth
June 21, 2021

The dam at River Park was successfully demolished several years ago. However, there is a large dropoff there, and many large boulders and sometimes trees there, so it still has to be portaged. At high water it turns into Class 2/3 rapids, so only an expert in a proper boat could run the former dam. There is a takeout on the right about 100 yards upstream of the former dam.

November 7, 2021

Major obstruction- logs are totally dammed up and blocking the river under the bridge near Foster/Cicero- impossible to pass and continue the route. No good site to portage nearby.

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