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Des Plaines River in Illinois

Trip Overview

As you park your vehicle in the big parking lot of the Vernon Hills Canoe Launch you will see a gravel ramp going down towards the water. Be careful as you walk down because I nearly fell as I was hurrying down towards the launch spot with my 50 lb kayak and paddle in the other hand.

Once I was in the water and paddling, I got to a shallow muddy/sand passage which you need to use to get onto the main Des Plaines River, water was very shallow and I had to use both hands to push myself lifting the kayak a bit to get onto the main river. I turned south and started paddling down this river; lots of wildlife right off the bat.

After paddling for a bit, I saw a DANGER DAM ahead sign and there was a small dam I turned around got a bit more speed and headed for it full speed ahead! Unfortunately the water level was low and I got stuck on the bottom of it... had to struggle for a bit to get down (I wish I wasn't in my new 15' boat) but that's ok. Paddling further down I encountered a beaver who was carrying grass on his back and once he saw me he dived down and left the pile of grass floating on top. I think that was the closest I've been to an actual beaver.

You'll encounter some fallen trees as you keep paddling down this River, which you'll have to maneuver around , but nothing major there, all in all this was a good relaxing trip about 3 hours and 15 min of total paddling for me, I got as far as the Golf course on the right side some water was very shallow at times but all in all the Des Plaines is a great relaxing river, different from the Skokie Lagoons and the Lake Michigan.


big parking lot, easy river access


no fees or permits


on IL-60 its called "Canoe Launch in Vernon Hills"
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip