Special Feature: Paddle Sports from Lake County Forest Preserves

Article by the Lake County Forest Preserves:  Horizon’s Quarterly Newsletter Summer 2013 

People love water.  And in Lake County there’s a lot to love.  It’s always been a high priority to preserve and restore lakes, streams and rivers in our forest preserves, and to provide access for people to have fun on and along the water.

Paddling The Des Plaines River - by Lake County Forest Preserves

Lakes, streams and rivers in our forest preserves provide many natural benefits.  They provide habitat for wildlife and plants, including many endangered and threatened species. Beautiful scenery serves as a backdrop for all types of outdoor fun, such as fishing, boating, canoeing and kayaking, hiking and swimming – and educational programs for all ages and interests are also enhanced.

Pond Study Photo by Chip Williams

We’re filled to the brim with fun and educational programs about water. Our certified instructors teach canoeing and kayaking skills, and offer guided trips down nearby rivers.  Our giant 34-foot Voyageur Canoe hosts family and group programs at Independence Grove and Van Patten Woods.  Summer Fish camps for youth are among the first to fill each summer, and we also offer Lake Ecology, Pond Study and Fish Biology field trips during the school year.  Many other family, youth and school programs explore our ponds, streams and rivers to look for birds, beavers, frogs , turtles and other creatures large and small.



Kayaker on the Des Plaines River - Horizon's Quarterly Magazine

Launch your canoe, kayak or other small boat at one of six launches along the Des Plaines River, Sterling Lake at Van Patten Woods (Wadsworth), or on Long Lake at Grant Woods (Lake Villa).  Launching is free and at your own risk.  You’ll need approved flotation gear and your boat must be properly registered with the state of Illinois.  Trailers are permitted but parking at some sites may be limited to grass overflow parking lot.  Electric trolling motors are allowed.  A variety of small boats are available for rent at Independence Grove.  For larger boats, Fox River Forest Preserve has one of the best equipped daily launches on the Fox River and slips are available for rent in the preserve’s beautiful 169-slip marina.  See map for preserve locations and things to do. 


With April Vaos and Paul Klonoski

Canoe vs. kayak – which is right for me?
It’s helpful to try both in an instructional setting before you buy anything.  In general, canoes offer more room for supplies, while you sit much lower in a kayak, which makes some people feel more stable.  One part of formal instruction is a discussion of boat materials and designs – different boats are used for different environments.

Boats Available for rent at Independence Grove

Where should I go to paddle?
Independence Grove (Libertyville) is a good place for beginners because you can rent a boat and the water is flat.  I recommend taking a river course before trying the Des Plaines, since it can be a fast moving river at certain times of the year.

When care classes offered?
Introductory classes for canoes and kayaks are offered May-October.  Seeing the different seasons unfold along the waterways is spectacular – you’ll see migrating birds in spring, color changes and more migrating birds in fall, and wildflowers spring-fall.

What skills are taught?
With proper paddling instruction, you’ll learn techniques that will prevent sore arms, shoulder injuries and unexpected swims.  An important part of formal instruction is the discussion of risks and hazards – always wear your life jacket!

What other paddling activities are available?
In addition to instruction, we have recreational programs like sunrise, twilight, Full Moon and guided nature paddles.  Joining a paddling club is a great way to meet other paddlers and enjoy plenty of paddling trips.  For a list of local clubs, visit the Illinois Paddling Council at


Article from Lake County Forest Preserve’s Horizons Quarterly Issue.  Subscribe or Read online here.

For a full list of upcoming Forest Preserve Events Click Here






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