Directions: Ping Tom Memorial Park, located at 300 W. 19th Street in Chicago’s Chinatown provides access to the South Branch Chicago River. The 12-acre Ping Tom Memorial Park also offers many amenities including a playground and community gathering areas. REI rents kayaks from the boathouse at Ping Tom Memorial Park. Access into and out of Ping Tom Park is by footpath only and parking near the park is limited. Be prepared to carry your boat for several blocks if you are using your own at Ping Tom.
To get to the Western Avenue boat ramp from the Stevenson Expressway (I-55), exit at Damen. Drive south on Damen to Archer Avenue and make a right turn onto Archer. Drive southwest on Archer about one block to 35th Street. Turn right onto 35th Street and drive west past South Western Boulevard to the next intersection of South Western Avenue. Turn right (north) onto South Western Avenue and drive nearly three blocks north to where S. Western Avenue forks. Stay to the left and take the frontage road (which is also called S. Western Ave.) north under the Stevenson Expressway to the end of the street just past the railroad underpass. Turn left (west) into the Boat Ramp parking lot.
Notes: Just downstream of Ping Tom Park and the Canal Street Bridge, on the river left (the southeast side of the river) you will pass Lawrence Fisheries, a restaurant located at 2120 S Canal Street in Chicago, that has made their dock available to the public for canoeing and kayaking.
Just east of the confluence of the South Branch Chicago River and Bubbly Creek, you will pass Park #571, and the boathouse and dock that have recently been completed there, on river left. The take-out at S. Western Avenue is on river left just past the Western Avenue Bridge.
This trip is rated for expert paddlers with good balance, boat control, and bracing skills. It is not recommended for beginner paddlers due to the amount of commercial and industrial traffic in the downtown area. This trip passes the confluence with the South Fork of the South Branch, better known as “Bubbly Creek”.