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Chicago River in Illinois

Trip Overview

Whenever I mention the Chicago River people conger up the vision of an urban sewer--they couldn't be more wrong. The Chicago is clean, healthy and beautiful. Fish abound. Blue Heron's sweep low over paddlers to show they 'own' that section of the river. Painted turtles sun themselves on tree limbs on the banks. On weekends you may see another paddler or even an occasional powerboat, but for the most part you'll be alone.

The river is represented on the Chicago City flag, as a Y, and for good reason. The two branches of the Northern part of the river connect near Foster and Western avenues. There is a put in just north of Irving Park and a new one in Skokie at Oakton St.

The river is damned at both ends, so there is very little current allowing for easy round trips. Put in on Oakton and paddle 4 miles to the dam at Wilmette Harbor or south, all the way to the Loop. You'll have a mixture of urban and country views and since you can park close to the put in and return to the same place, you don't need to reposition another car at a take out. This is a great paddle, even if you only have a couple of hours.


Difficult landing anyplace along the river. All private property and even the bridge area's are fenced.


The north branch of the Chicago River runs into downtown Chicago from Wilmette on one branch and Glenview on the other.


Skokie put in, at Oakton St. 1/2 block East of McCormack Blvd at the border of Skokie and Evanston, IL. Parking and bath room, no fee for parking or launching.

In Chicago, a block north of Irving Park Road and two blocks west of Western Av. This site is maintained by The Friends of The Chicago River. Street parking.


The Friends of the Chicago River.


Better then any book, is the tour given by boat by the Chicago Architecteral Society.

  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip