Salt Creek consists of four sections, each offering a distinct paddling experience. Paddling is also available at Busse Lake located at the northern end of the trail in Ned Brown Forest Preserve (Busse Woods).
The upper watershed begins in Palatine and flows south past Arlington Race Track as an intermittent stream in a narrow channel. The lake section begins where the creek crosses Golf Road (Route 58) and enters Busse Woods Forest Preserve and the 590 acre flood retention area of Busse Reservoir. The dam that creates the reservoir marks the beginning of the middle section through Cook and DuPage counties. This stretch runs through residential areas as well as a number of forest preserves and parks. Sewage treatment plants and flood control structures in DuPage County affect the water quality and present occasional hazards. The lower section begins where the creek re-enters Cook County at the Tri-State Tollway. With the exception of a half mile stretch of the river through Brookfield, the lower section of Salt Creek is owned on one or both banks by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.
Lake Section: Canoes, rowboats, and sailboats are allowed on the South and Main Lake sections of Cook County Forest Preserve District’s Busse Lake. There are public launch ramps for access to both areas. Watercraft rental is available by the hour or day from April through October. Electric trolling motors are allowed; gas outboard motors are not.
Middle Section: While the reservoir collects water from a large watershed north of Golf Road, much of the polluted runoff that is also collected stays in the lake. The water that flows over the top of the dam to begin the middle section of the creek is relatively clean. Most of its course through Elk Grove is through Village Park District property. In DuPage County the creek provides an interesting trip through a mix of forest preserves, local parks, golf courses, and light industrial and residential areas. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is currently developing access points at Salt Creek Park Forest Preserve, Cricket Creek Forest Preserve, and Hunter Drive, which is currently considered the end of the Middle Section of the Salt Creek water trail since Salt Creek enters a private golf course and flows under low bridges south of Hunter Drive. The Elmhurst Park District provides access at Eldridge Park, approximately two miles above Hunter Drive.
Lower Section: Salt Creek re-enters Cook County at the Tri-State Tollway (I-294). Just before entering Cook County, the official Salt Creek water trail begins again, with an access site at Oak Brook Park District’s Dorothy and Sam Dean Nature Sanctuary. Although shallow in spots, the river winds through beautiful Cook County Forest Preserves and land owned by the Brookfield Zoo before its confluence with the Des Plaines River at Plank Road Meadow. This stretch has low banks and several access points in forest preserves. Paddlers are advised to take out at Plank Road Meadow or before. Downstream of Plank Road Meadow paddlers will encounter the site of the former Hofmann Dam. The dam was removed several years ago, but the debris that remains poses a hazard to paddlers.