The Des Plaines River begins in Racine County, Wisconsin and flows south through Illinois for about 95 miles. Along the water trail, it changes its character (and legal classification) from a prairie stream to a large urban river, and then to a major industrial waterway.
The DuPage River is a small-to-medium sized stream flowing north to south through DuPage and Will counties and ending at its confluence with the Des Plaines River in Channahon. The DuPage consists of east and west branches which meet south of Naperville. Together, they make up eighty-four miles of waterway that drain a watershed of 326 square miles.
The Kankakee River was designated as a National Water Trail in June 2016 for its entire length, starting at its origin in Indiana, all the way to its confluence with the Des Plaines River in Illinois. Where the Kankakee and Des Plaines Rivers meet, the river becomes the Illinois River.