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Activities at your forest preserves


Boating / Canoeing / Kayaking

Construction Alert | Aug 13–29

The Illinois Department of Transportation is replacing the Grand Avenue bridge over the Des Plaines River. Please use caution and slow down when passing under the bridge.


Boat Rental

A variety of small boats are available for rent seasonally at Independence Grove. Personal watercraft are not allowed on the lake at Independence Grove.

Boat Launches

Small Watercraft: Launch your own cartop boat, canoe, kayak, paddleboard or other small watercraft on Sterling Lake at Van Patten Woods in Wadsworth, on Long Lake at Grant Woods in Ingleside, or at Hastings Lake in Lake Villa. Launching is free and at your own risk. You'll need approved flotation gear and your boat must be registered with the state of Illinois. Electric trolling motors are allowed. Trailers are permitted only at Van Patten Woods but parking is limited to the grass overflow area. 

Motorboats: For larger boats, Fox River Forest Preserve in Port Barrington has one of the best equipped public boat launches on the Fox River. Boat slips are available for rent on a seasonal basis in the preserve's beautiful 169-slip Marina. Indoor dry storage is also available here.

Des Plaines River Canoe Launches

(north to south)

River segment

Approximate float time (subject to water level)


Van Patten Woods Canoe Launch to Sedge Meadow Canoe Launch
6.25 river miles

3–4 hours

Shallow section of the river; may involve portaging, especially if the Russell Road gauge reads below 10cfs.

Sedge Meadow Canoe Launch  to Des Plaines River Canoe Launch near Gurnee's Gowe Park
6.2 miles

3–4 hours

Beware of frequent obstacles such as beaver dams and log jams that you should portage around.

Des Plaines River Canoe Launch near Gurnee's Gowe Park to Independence Grove Canoe Launch
5.1 miles

2–3 hours

Be aware of beaver dams and log jams, especially above Washington street. Ad hoc launch also available at Route 120. At very high water, be aware of the two bridges at the monastery; you may have to portage.

Independence Grove Canoe Launch to Oak Spring Road Canoe Launch
2.7 miles

1–1.5 hours

Expect to wade through shallow spots if the Gurnee gauge is below 35cfs.

Oak Spring Road Canoe Launch to Wright Woods Canoe Launch (Route 60)
4.6 miles

2–3 hours

This section of river is predominantly free of log jams.

Wright Woods Canoe Launch (Route 60) to Rivershire Park (Lincolnshire Park District)
4.5 miles

2–3 hours

This section of river is predominantly free of log jams.

Rivershire Park (Lincolnshire Park District) to Dam #1 Woods (Forest Preserve District of Cook County)
5.9 miles

2.5–3.5 hours

Take-out on river right just upstream of Dam #1. Additional ad hoc launch at Potawatomi Woods, just south of Lake-Cook Road.


Learn to Canoe or Kayak

Learn how to safely canoe or kayak with classes taught by our American Canoe Association-certified instructors. Check our calendar of events for upcoming public classes.

Group Instruction Available

Maximum 12 participants for canoe, 10 for kayak. Offered May through October. Two courses to choose from:

2-hour course: Designed for ages 9–adult; $189 per group ($264 nonresidents).

  • In this fun, non-threatening introduction to canoeing and kayaking, you'll learn safety procedures, practice basic skills, and then test your skills with paddling games.

4-hour course: Designed for ages 12–adult; $249 per group ($348 for nonresidents).

  • Learn to canoe, practice six basic strokes and maneuvers, as well as self-rescue techniques. Proper equipment and clothing are also covered.

Guide Information

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Des Plaines River at Gurnee - Water Level and Streamflow
Real-time data provided by the USGS.
Des Plaines River at Russell - Water Level and Streamflow
Real-time data provided by the USGS.
Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon
The largest and longest (19.5 miles) downriver canoe event in Illinois, attracting people from across the country. Sponsored by the Des Plaines River Association, the Lake County Forest Preserves, the Cook County Forest Preserves and sanctioned by the Illinois Paddling Council and the United States Canoe Association.
Fox Waterway Agency
State agency maintaining the Fox River and Chain O'Lakes public waterways. Includes maps, permit applications and current boating conditions.
IDNR Watercraft Registration
Most watercraft (other than sailboards) must be registered and titled through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The IDNR website provides forms and online renewal.
Illinois Paddling Council
The Illinois Paddling Council (IPC) was organized in 1962 and is a not-for-profit association of paddlers and paddling organizations in Illinois.
Rules and Regulations

All activities on District property are subject to the Lake County Forest Preserve Rules and Regulations.


Boating / Canoeing / Kayaking Locations

Captain Daniel Wright Woods Canoe Launch (Route 60)
Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway
Fox River
Grant Woods Canoe Launch
Hastings Lake
Independence Grove
Independence Grove Canoe Launch
Oak Spring Road Canoe Launch
Sedge Meadow Canoe Launch (Wadsworth Road)
Van Patten Woods
Van Patten Woods Canoe Launch (Russell Road)