Where to Kayak in Chicago? Best Places – 2022

If you’re looking for a great way to explore Chicago’s waterways, kayaking is the perfect option. There are plenty of places to kayak in Chicago, so no matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find a spot that’s perfect for you.

In this blog post, we’ll give you a breakdown of some of the best places to kayak in Chicago. So whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker, there’s sure to be something for you on this list!

Where to Kayak in Chicago?

There are a few places to kayak in Chicago, but three of the best spots for kayaking include:

The Chicago River: 

The Main Branch of the Chicago River has plenty of opportunities for beginner and experienced paddlers to explore. There’s always something new to see along this river, from bridges to landmarks, you’ll never get tired of kayaking here.


If you want a place to kayak in Chicago with a more urban vibe, the Riverwalk is the perfect option for you. While this body of water does have some commercial boats passing through, it’s still a great way to explore downtown Chicago.

Lake Michigan: 

Although Lake Michigan may be known as the Windy City, that doesn’t mean the water is always choppy and unpleasant. In fact, on a nice and calm day, kayaking alongside the coast of Lake Michigan can be one of the most peaceful ways to spend your afternoon.

Calumet River:

Located on the southeast side of Chicago, the Calumet River is a great way to spend your day kayaking on some of Chicago’s historic waterways. See some fantastic wildlife on the banks of this river, including deer and eagles!

What Do You Need?

All you’ll need for any of these kayaking spots is a rental for some kayaks and some gear (a life vest, a dry bag for your phone and keys, etc.) If you’re renting from a kayak store, you’ll have to fill out some paperwork as well.

In addition to those things, it’s always helpful to take along water and snacks so that you don’t get hungry or thirsty while you paddle!

What Should You Expect?

You can go on a self-guided kayak tour or you can hire a guide to show you around. Either way, you’ll have a great time exploring some of the most scenic spots in Chicago. 

Most kayaking sites along the water are very secluded and peaceful, so rest assured that your outing will be just between you, the water, and whatever may be living down below! 

What Kind of Gear Do You Need For Kayaking? 

All you really need for kayaking is a kayak, PFD (personal flotation device), paddle, and safety gear.

If you’re renting from a store, they should provide the first three things. However, if you are renting or buying your own equipment, make sure to take along the following safety items to stay safe on the water:

  • Waterproof/floating cell phone (in a plastic bag or dry box)
  • Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, etc.)
  • First-aid kit (including an extra set of clothes in case you flip your kayak and get wet)
  • Whistle for emergencies
  • Leash for your paddle
  • Extra paddle stored inside your kayak

You should never go out on the water without a PFD, so always make sure you have one of those! In addition to what we already mentioned, you’ll want to bring along a map of the area. If anything goes wrong, it’s important that you know where you are so that emergency responders can find you


Now you have enough knowledge to plan where to kayak in Chicago. Thus, if you are prepared to go kayaking then you must have the proper gear with you so that it will be easy for you to enjoy the trip.


Where are some other good kayaking spots near me? 

There are many different options for kayaking near you depending on where you are in the city. For kayaking in Chicago on the North Side, check out Montrose Harbor. For kayakers near downtown, check out Diversey Harbor or the Riverwalk. On the South Side, try taking a kayak tour along Burnham Park or stop by Garfield Park for some paddling time.

How much does kayaking cost? 

The fees for kayaking in Chicago will vary depending on where you go and what kind of experience you’re looking for. For beginners, places like Montrose Harbor or the Riverwalk are a great place to start out. If you want a guided tour of downtown, check out this site .

Is it easy to kayak in Chicago?

If you’ve kayaked before, it’s easy to get started. If this is your first time kayaking, no need to worry! Most rental spots offer lessons so you can learn how to handle a kayak and have a safe experience out on the water.

What should I expect from my kayaking trip?

Depending on where you’re kayaking, there may be some gear that’s required. For instance, if you’re kayaking on the South Side, you’ll need to wear a life vest at all times. If you’re renting your kayak from Outdoor Sports Rental, they will provide everything you need for an enjoyable trip.

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