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Des Plaines River in Illinois

Trip Overview

I put in at the Route 60 launch this afternoon. The river is down, and the channel out of the launch area was pretty shallow, but there was still enough to keep my kayak off the bottom. =)

I decided to run south, since I haven't seen much of that part of the river. There were herons & cranes right off the bat. I later came across a raccoon, a young deer (came within 20' and never batted an eye), turkey vultures, and assorted geese & ducks with their young.

The portage around the dam about halfway to Route 22 was a little rough - there's some deadfall around it, and a pretty good hill to negotiate. The sign warning of the dam looked fairly new (I remember an earlier report noted they were in disrepair) but the sound of water rushing over it was a good enough clue that it was coming. Had I seen it from downstream before pulling the boat out, I might have run it... but as the 'yak is still new, I'd just as soon save the hull thickness for unknown snags and avoid the ones I can.

The dam/rapids or whatever just north of Route 22 however was a surprise... I decided to turn back there, although the current almost didn't want to let me. This would be just downstream of the log-cabin looking building at a sharp left turn (you can see it from 22 if you drive that way)

There were maybe two or three spots on the way back upstream that were shallow enough to make paddling a little more work. They'd have been really difficult in a canoe, since the paddles go in a little closer to vertical when you're sitting that high up... thus the 'moderate' rating...

Overall, a good trip. Ran about 3.6 miles each way; only took 20 minutes longer going upstream (the DP is pretty slow-moving) Someone is obviously keeping the river clear - I noted several limbs pointed toward the river which had been cut away. This is soooo much better than I remember from years past - as a kid, we would paddle north from Lake Carina (just south of I-94) and would have to portage around at least five strainers on the way up to Wadsworth Road. Kudos to the chainsaw operators!


Parking for about 20 vehicles; access to the Des Plaines River Trail & canoe launch. No restroom facilities, but there are a number of restaurants & gas stations on 21 nearby.


Boats should be registered in Illinois, though I've never seen anyone on the river checking. Aside from that, the lot is open 6:30 am to sunset.


From Route 21, the Route 60 launch is at the bottom of the hill on the south side of the road (second(?) driveway past the shopping plaza) just before the bridge over the river.


The maps on the Lake County Forest Preserve web site are less than detailed, but give river mileage between launches.
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip