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Recreation Activities


Boaters of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to experienced, can enjoy paddling at various Lake County Forest Preserve locations.

Non-Motorized Watercraft

Bring your own cartop boat, canoe, kayak, paddleboard or other small non-motorized watercraft and launch it on one of four inland lakes:

Launching is free and at your own risk. You’ll need approved flotation gear. Electric trolling motors are allowed. Trailers are permitted only at Van Patten Woods but parking is limited to the grass overflow area.


Motorized Watercraft

For large, motorized watercraft, the Fox River Forest Preserve in Port Barrington has one of the best equipped public boat launches on the Fox River. There is a fee for launching. 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. You’ll need approved flotation gear, and your motorized watercraft must be registered and titled with the state of Illinois. View map.

Canoe Launches

Paddle down the scenic Des Plaines River, or fish along its banks at one of six canoe launches. All provide river access, shoreline fishing and parking. Some have connections to the Des Plaines River Trail. Cartop canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and other small non-motorized watercraft are allowed. Trailers are not permitted. Launching is free and at your own risk. You’ll need approved flotation gear. 



Boat Use


A variety of boats and other small watercraft are available for rent seasonally at the marina at Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville. Rentals allow paddlers who do not own their own boat a chance to get out on the preserve's 115-acre lake. They also allow paddling newcomers an opportunity to try a variety of equipment before purchasing their own boat. Personal watercraft is not allowed on the lake at Independence Grove.

Paddle in the Preserves

Read Horizons magazine to learn about our four favorite floats and gain helpful tips to make your adventure more successful.


Paddling tips from our certified instructors:

1. Beginners should take an on-water instruction course to learn about safety, technique and equipment. 

2. Wear a life jacket. It is common to capsize when paddling. Learn more about the proper use of flotation gear and how it can save your life.

3. Cold water is extremely dangerous! Learn more about protecting yourself in this environment.

4. Canoe or kayak—which is better? It’s helpful to try both in an instructional setting before you buy. In general canoes offer more room for supplies. Paddlers sit lower in a kayak, which makes some people feel more stable.

5. Join a paddling club. It's a great way to meet other paddlers and learn about good paddling locations.

6. The lake at Independence Grove is a good place for beginners because you can rent a boat and the water is calm.

7. Take a river course before trying the Des Plaines River since it can be a fast moving river at certain times of the year.

Registration & Titling

Motorized watercraft must be registered and titled with the state of Illinois. Learn more »

Be Safe on the Water

Check water heights before heading out on your next paddling adventure.

Be sure to bring along approved flotation gear for all your passengers.