Beginner and Families with Children: The trip has no dams that need to be portaged, is generally on a waterway where large motorized boats will not be encountered, and where it is possible to get out of the water in case of an emergency or unexpected obstacle at most points along the way.
Beginner with a Guide: In some trips we will note in the trail where beginners can paddle with a guide. These are trips that are appropriate for less advanced paddlers if they are with a guide who knows the waterway and who has the advanced skill levels necessary to help less experienced paddlers avoid and navigate situations that demand expertise.
These are generalized designations based on aspects of the water trail such as whether there are dams or other obstacles to portage, whether there are power boats and barges on the waterway, how deep the water is, and how easy it is to get out of the water in case of an emergency.
It is important to remember that any waterway, even one rated for beginners, can and will become dangerous to paddle under some conditions. For example, when water levels are very high such as after storms or rain, high water will be moving extremely rapidly through stream and river channels, making it very difficult or impossible to control your boat and to avoid being swept into obstacles such as trees or dams.
Never paddle in fast water or in flooded waterways and never paddle over dams. Lowhead dams, found throughout northeastern Illinois, create dangerous currents that are deadly to those caught in them. To understand these currents and become more familiar with paddling safety, see these websites:
Please always keep in mind that rivers and lakes are dynamic features and will vary over time. Conditions can change quickly. Paddling may have inherent risks and hazardous conditions can occur anywhere along the trails. You are solely responsible for your own safety.