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.


Ready to explore the Water Trails of Northeastern Illinois for yourself? Visit Openlands’ online paddling guide and start exploring these waterways this weekend! Like Explore Your Lakes and Rivers events, the guide is designed to be inclusive for first-time paddlers, and is a free and open resource for the public.

The online guide contains step-by-step trip descriptions for non-motorized boating on over 500 miles of trails on 10 of the region’s waterways. The website can help you plan your next paddling trip by providing information on important features of each waterway, locations of water trail put-ins and take-outs, trip length and difficulty, and equipment rental locations.

The website also provides easy-to-use, interactive maps for each trail, indicating launch sites, dams, and skill levels along the trail. To make your trip as enjoyable as possible, the guide also notes trail extensions, shorter alternative trips, and opportunities to view wildlife and landmarks. Paddlers may also leave comments on each waterway page to share their paddling tips.

With the guide’s help, you’ll be prepared to visit some of the highest quality aquatic habitat along the Kishwaukee River, paddle on Little Calumet River through Kickapoo Woods, and take the Fox River to Silver Springs State Park. Openlands’ guide has detailed resources and trips for everyone, even if you’ve never paddled before.

With trails on Nippersink Creek winding through Glacial Park, to trips on the Chicago River in the heart of the city, northeastern Illinois’ Water Trails are waiting to be explored.

Use the guide to start planning your trip now!

Paddling 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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