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Must Paddle Chicago Kayaking Destinations


Between the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, it’s no surprise that Chicago, Illinois is an extremely popular kayaking destination. There’s over a dozen places where you can rent a kayak and endless possibilities for exploring. From skyscraper studded urban paddles to the secluded wilderness, find your next kayaking adventure in Chicago.

Where to Kayak in Chicago, Illinois

Explore the great outdoors of Chicago with these must paddle kayaking destinations in and around the Windy City.

Chicago River Water Trail

Chicago, IL

Running right through the heart of Chicago, The Chicago River is one of the city’s greatest natural assets. It has served as a means of transportation, commerce and recreation for generations. Recently, it’s become an extremely popular kayaking destination. Paddlers can choose their own adventure, exploring the various branches of the river. The Main Branch through The Loop is probably the most popular spot for kayaking in Chicago. It’s in the epicenter of the city and offers amazing skyline views. The North Branch offers rustic riverbanks and an opportunity to explore a variety of plant and animal habits. The South Branch will give you a look at the industrial operations along the river with its marinas and barges.

The Lake Michigan Water Trail

Calumet Park, Chicago, IL

The Lake Michigan Water Trail offers a diverse paddling experience that travels 75 miles along metropolitan shores and secluded beaches from Chicago, Illinois to New Buffalo, Michigan. Enjoy unique views of the skyline, coastal bluffs, towering dunes, bustling ports and swale habitats. The western most access point is at Calumet Park in Chicago. The park is beautiful and large at 181 acres. You find a sandy kayak launch at the south end of the beach next to the pier.

 Monroe Harbor

Chicago, IL

Just south of Navy Pier, Monroe Harbor is in the heart of downtown Chicago and is a central focal point of the lakefront. It is one of Chicago’s largest harbors as well as the city’s main recreational harbor. Monroe Harbor borders Millennium Park, Grant Park and the Museum Campus. With the backdrop of the Chicago skyline, it is one of the most iconic and picturesque places to go kayaking in the city.

Skokie Lagoons

Glencoe, IL

Thirty minutes outside of Chicago, the Skokie Lagoons offer a gorgeous nature filled paddle. This series of connected hand-dug lagoons offer nearly seven miles of wetlands to explore. Enjoy a lazy paddle filled with beautiful greenery, secluded alcoves and wildlife just outside the city. 

Starved Rock State Park

This National Historic Landmark is an outdoor gem. It was voted the number one attraction in the state of Illinois. Two hours from Chicago, it’s a prime kayaking destination for those looking to get lost in nature. Enjoy the canyon-like rock formations, seasonal waterfalls, stunning forests and wildlife as you paddle along the Illinois River.

Chicago, Illinois Kayak Storage

With so much great nature to explore in and around Chicago, make sure your kayak or canoe is always ready for adventure. Our hand-crafted cedar log kayak racks are as beautiful as they are practical. Naturally weather resistant, they will store and display your kayaks while keeping them safe and protected for years of enjoyment. Shop kayak racks online now or contact us for a custom kayak storage solution to meet your Chicago, IL kayak storage needs.