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Lower Little Calumet & Calumet Rivers - Paddle Illinois Water Trails

Beaubien Woods to Calumet Park Boat Launch

  • Skill Level:Expert
  • Trail Length:11 miles
  • Waterway Trail:Calumet Area Water Trails
Calumet Area Water Trails, Expert, Long Trips

Lower Little Calumet & Calumet Rivers

Between the confluence with the Cal-Sag Channel and the mouth of the river at Lake Michigan, industrial traffic, concrete, and steel vertical bulkhead walls, and powered boats make this stretch a place for expert paddlers. However, the O’Brien Locks at 134th Street, Lake Calumet, and the monumental, hulking, and rusting relics of the river’s industrial past, create a unique experience in this section. The Little Calumet Boat Launch and the boat ramp in Beaubien Woods create the water trail on this stretch.

Directions: Put-in at the launch ramp at Beaubien Woods Forest Preserve, owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County, south of 130th Street, between the I-94 Bishop Ford Freeway and Altgeld Gardens. At Carver Military Academy, located at 13100 S. Doty Avenue, turn west onto 132nd Street. Cross the railroad tracks, and then almost immediately turn south on the Forest Preserve Drive and follow it to its end at the boat ramps.

Underground Railroad Connection: As an alternative to this trip, or in conjunction with this trip, you can also head upstream from the Beaubien Woods Boat Ramp for a short distance and pass historic Underground Railroad sites.  Although the buildings, bridge, and ferry that were stops on the Underground Railroad no longer stand, you can use this map to understand where they were and get a sense of the history of this stretch of the river. Download the Underground Railroad map.

Notes: This trip is for expert paddlers due to heavy barge traffic and large motor craft in the channel. This trip provides access to views of a giant industrial complex, including cranes, factories, conveyor belts, and ocean-going ships along the Calumet River. Pass through the O’Brien Locks at about 134th Street. Approximately six miles north are dry-docks on the right bank, just before passing under the enormous Chicago Skyway Bridge. The mouth of the river at Lake Michigan is approximately 1.5 miles downstream. Check the weather and waves before entering the lake. The take-out, at the Calumet Park Boat Launch, is approximately 0.5 miles south of the mouth of the river.

While most paddlers look for river trips away from urban areas, the Calumet River and the O’Brien Locks provide access to views of a giant industrial complex. The colossal sculpture of cranes, factories, huge conveyor belts, and ocean-going ships display interesting scenery along the Calumet River.


Rob Miller
March 26, 2021

Is there a place to launch a kayak at the confluence of the Calumet River and the Ship Canal? I want to complete the triangle route from the Calumet River to Lake Michigan, then down the Chicago River back to the confluence.

March 26, 2021

Hi Rob! We are not aware of a launch near the confluence of the sanitary and ship canal and the Cal-Sag Channel. The launch farthest south west on the south branch Chicago river/sanitary and ship canal that we know of is the launch at south Western Avenue. The one that is farthest west on the Cal-Sag Channel that we know of is the Alsip Launch. To travel between those two launches would be 31 miles! To see these launches, you can go to paddleillinoiswatertrails.org and look at the interactive Chicago river water trail map (for south Western Avenue) and the interactive Calumet water trail map (for Alsip).

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