Paddle Illinois Water Trails

Openlands has been working to expand and improve water trails around the Chicago region, including parts of the Lake Michigan Water Trail, the Des Plaines River, the Fox River, the Calumet River, and more.

Along these water trails, Openlands facilitates paddling events and workshops in local parks or in county forest preserves to help acquaint local residents with the water trails surrounding them in the Chicago and Calumet areas. These workshops are open to the public, free of charge, and are often coupled with volunteer and stewardship opportunities such as a park cleanup or river cleanup. With the assistance of several partners, canoes and kayaks are provided and first-time paddlers are encouraged to join us!

In an effort to provide a guide to paddling around Northeastern Illinois, we’ve created, which has information on where to paddle, upcoming trips, where to rent equipment, and more. In addition, Openlands hosts several paddling events, designed to encourage exploration of the water trails around the Chicago metropolitan region and provide opportunities for water trail stewardship. Learn more at

Paddle Illinois Water Trails

Our region is home to numerous lakes and rivers just waiting to be explored. From Lake County to Northwest Indiana, discover one of several trails throughout the area! Openlands’ new paddling website, Paddle Illinois Water Trails, is a comprehensive guide for canoeing and kayaking in the Chicago region. Covering over 500 miles of water trails across 10 of northeastern Illinois’ waterways, this new guide provides rich information about paddling, including step-by-step trips along each trail. The site contains trips and resources for everyone, from first-time paddlers to seasoned boaters.