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Recreation Activities

Des Plaines River 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. Launching is free and at your own risk. You’ll need approved flotation gear.

From North to South | Downstream

FLOAT TIME, APPROXIMATE                 

Van Patten Woods Canoe Launch Wadsworth–enter on Russell Road, east of Route 41 and west of Green Bay Road (Route 131). View map. 6.25 river miles 3–4 hours May involve portaging, especially if the Russell Road gauge reads below 10cfs.
Sedge Meadow Canoe Launch Wadsworth–enter on Wadsworth Road, east of Route 41. View map. 6.2 river miles 3–4 hours Beware of frequent obstacles such as beaver dams and logjams that you should portage around.
Des Plaines River Gurnee–McClure Avenue and O'Plaine Road, just south of Grand Ave near Gowe Park. View map. 5.1 river miles 3–4 hours Beware of frequent obstacles such as beaver dams and logjams that you should portage around.
Independence Grove Canoe Launch Libertyville–in Independence Grove Forest Preserve, across from the North Bay Pavilion. Preserve entrance is on Buckley Rd., (Route 137). View map. 2.7 river miles 2–4.5 hours Beware of beaver dams and logjams, especially above Washington Street. Expect to wade through shallow spots if the Gurnee gauge is below 35cfs. No dogs, horses or other pets are permitted, with the exception of service animals.
Oak Spring Road (Wilmot Woods) Libertyville–enter on Oak Spring Road, west of Saint Mary’s Road. View map. 4.5 river miles 4–5 hours Typically free of logjams but conditions are subject to change.
Wright Woods Canoe Launch Vernon Hills–enter on Route 60 east of Milwaukee Avenue (Route 21). View map. Final Lake County Forest Preserve launch heading south. Additional launches not operated by Lake County Forest Preserves available to the south. Typically free of logjams but conditions are subject to change. 

Volunteer Stewardship Opportunity

Become a River Steward and help us keep the river clean and free of debris.


Paddling Tips from our Certified Instructors

1. Beginners should take an on-water instruction courses 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.


Check water heights on the Fox River waterway and other Illinois lakes, rivers and streams before heading out on your next paddling adventure.

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