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Des Plaines River in Illinois

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

This trip on the Des Plaines River, from Wadsworth Road to Oak Spring Road is described as "Des Plaines River 2" in the book PADDLING ILLINOIS.

My twelve-year-old son and I started out from the canoe launch at approximately 2:00pm on July 29, 2001. We planned to paddle the 13.8 miles in our kayaks by 8:00pm, setting a slow and leisurely pace to simply enjoy ourselves and take in, at rest, the scenery and wildlife.

Unfortunately, we never made the entire trip, as conditions were not optimum. There is now much deadfall that must be maneuvered over, under, around and through. Also, the water-level of the river is extremely low. We often had to get out and drag our boats down the middle of the river until there was sufficient depth to re-launch. When portaging around the many obstacles, the riverbanks were quite muddly, forcing us to wade in what was often knee-deep mud.

This made the going extremely slow

Although no lowhead dams are listed in the book or on our river map, we encountered what seemed to be one just south of Belvidere Road (Route 120). It was about a mile down-stream of the Route 120 bridge. We would have missed it entirely and accidently run it but for my son happening to see an old "DANGER" sign that was in very ill-repair, hanging low in the brush and almost invisible on the west bank several hundred yards upstream.

As it was getting dark 8:45pm,we decided not to portage the damn and called our chase-car. We then returned upstream to the 120 bridge where we took out.

Note that we only managed about half the trip in 6 and-a-half hours. This was due to all the maneuvering we had to do because of the deadfall and low water levels.

Still, my son and I had a great time.

I did call the Lake County Forest Preserve to recount our experience with the lowhead dam. They, too, were unaware of it but were going to check it out. They said that, perhaps, the low water level had revealed it. Strange???


Good canoe landings at both the start and end of trip (I checked out the end even through we never made it). Rest rooms available at launch and take out. Difficult to exit during the course of trip due to muddy conditions of riverbanks.


No fees. Of course, Illinois boaters must register their boat with the State.


Put in at Wadsworth Road at the canoe landing just east of IL-94. Take out is (or should have been) at the canoe landing on Oak Spring road, just east of Route-21 (Milwaukee Avenue).


I referred to PADDLING ILLINOIS and a map published by the Lake County Forest Preserve citing their river routes.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Skill Level: Advanced
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location