Explore Your Lakes and Rivers Returns!

Openlands’ popular Explore Your Lakes and Rivers paddling series is back this summer! Explore Your Lakes and Rivers is designed to acquaint local residents with the water trails surrounding them in the Chicago and Calumet areas. Whether for river cleanups, educational opportunities, or just for fun, these paddling events have brought families out on the water across the area.

On Friday, April 28, we held our first paddling event of the year at Ping Tom Memorial Park and explored the South Branch of the Chicago River. With the rain staying away for the afternoon (and the sun shining for a while) paddling groups were able not only able to explore the Chicago River for the first time, but for many, this was their first time paddling!


For the second year, Wilderness Inquiry assisted our Ping Tom trip, and they provided canoes, equipment, and guides for the day, allowing more people to experience the river which winds through their own backyards. Wilderness Inquiry’s excellent guides made sure everyone was prepared to hit the water by offering safety lessons and equipment demonstrations before heading out. And while this can be a high-traffic area of the Chicago River, their guides found a quiet time for the tours, making sure everyone could enjoy their time without hesitation.

On Saturday, April 29, many different families, community groups, and volunteers braved miserable conditions in the rain and cold to spend some time on the river, as well as to assist with a park cleanup and tree mulching. Our friends from Faith in Place facilitated a discussion of migration stories, sharing how the families and communities in attendance arrived in the Chicago region. Families could also try their luck with a self-guided bird walk around Ping Tom Memorial Park both days.


Openlands is excited to announce the next two paddling dates for Explore Your Lakes and Rivers! These events are designed to be inclusive for first-time paddlers, they are open to the public, and they are a great way to spend a Saturday outside.

Please join us on Saturday, May 13 at Powderhorn Lake in Burnham. The morning of May 13 is devoted to cleaning-up the Chicago River around the area, and to celebrate the effort, we invite you to explore Powderhorn Lake in the afternoon from 1:30-4:30pm.

Powderhorn Lake sits in one of the most biodiverse areas in the Chicago region. The dune and swale habitats host a variety of plant life such as prickly pear cactus, and it is known for the osprey nest! Paddlers get a great look at the new osprey families in the springtime, and you can further explore the natural areas surrounding the lake such as Burnham Woods and Burnham Prairie Nature Preserve.

Download the Flyer for May 13.

Little Cal CleanUp

On Saturday, June 3, join Openlands and Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC) at Kickapoo Woods for a cleanup of the Little Calumet River. We will be exploring an upper section of the river with shallow waters, making it an ideal trip for beginners. We will be launching out the FPCC’s new boat launch in Kickapoo Woods and lunch will be provided to volunteers!

River cleanups are part of Openlands’ robust history of connecting the people of the Calumet Region to nature by increasing public access to open space, empowering community groups and local governments to care for the region’s natural resources, and promoting a regional culture of conservation by developing an interconnected network of protected and productive green ways, water trails and open spaces.

Download the Flyer for June 3.

These events are all open to the public and we encourage you to join us at the next paddling day, even if you are a first-time paddler! For more information on Explore Your Lakes and Rivers, please contact paddle@openlands.org.

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