Whether you’re a long time paddler or just a beginner, you can head over to the Kishwaukee River for day or weekend trip. Experience the Kishwaukee’s high quality aquatic habitat up close; its main branch is considered “Class A” by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Openlands and the Boone County Conservation District (BCCD) have worked hard in partnership to protect key stretches of the Kishwaukee River from future development and open up more river access through conservation easements and acquisitions.
The river is home to over 1,000 species of plants, 59 species fish and 28 endangered species, making it a unique opportunity for Chicagoan nature lovers to immerse themselves in the outdoors. As you’re paddling you might see endangered species such as Sandhill Cranes, Speckled Adlers, or Mulberry-Winged Butterflies. Even otters are common sightings along the river! So get out there and enjoy the blue skies and clear waters that run east-west for around 63 miles.
The river is located between the cities of Chicago and Rockford. You can see an interactive map and launch sites here.
Plan your trip:
- Gear Rental: Even if you don’t paddle enough to have your own gear, there are plenty of places to rent gear along the Kishwaukee River.
- Camping: Make a reservation at Thomas Woods in Marengo Ridge Conservation Area if you want to spend the weekend paddling. The campsite is located just 5 minutes away from the nearest launch site off highway 23.
- Rockford: Depending on what water route you decide to take, you might end up in Rockford, so check what’s happening there the weekend you plan your trip.