Five Lake County Canoe Launches on the Des Plaines River

Believe it or not, lakes aren't the only bodies of water in Lake County. In fact, a large segment of the 133-mile Des Plaines River dissects the county – beginning on the Illinois-Wisconsin state line and flowing south through the county towards Chicago before joining the Kankakee River to form the Illinois River.

The Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway, part of the Lake County Forest Preserves, parallels the river and flows through the eastern half of Lake County. The river serves as a “backbone” to “thousands of acres of contiguous, lush open space,” according to the Lake County Forest Preserves website.

The Des Plaines River Trail provides excellent recreation opportunities for biking, walking and running, but boating enthusiasts will certainly want to see the beautiful sights via canoe.

Fortunately, five canoe launch sites are available in Lake County to encourage recreational use of the river. The lack of trailered boat ramps make the long river a quiet, beginner and family-friendly river – free of the noise produced by powered boats.

Highlighted below are the five Des Plaines River canoe launches in Lake County. Find float times and more details on the Lake County Forest Preserves website. All launch areas offer canoe access to the river, shoreline fishing and parking. Some offer trail connections to the Des Plaines River Trail.

1. Van Patten Woods Canoe Launch (Russell Road)

The Canoe Launch entrance is located on Russell Road east of Route 41 and west of Green Bay Road (Route 131) in Zion, and is part of Van Patten Woods Forest Preserve.

If you launch your canoe here, the next Forest Preserve ramp is at Wadsworth Road in Sedge Meadow Forest Preserve, 6.25 miles downstream.

2. Sedge Meadow Canoe Launch (Wadsworth Road)

The canoe launch entrance is located on Wadsworth Road east of Route 41 in Wadsworth, and is part of Sedge Meadow Forest Preserve.

If you put in here, the next Forest Preserve ramp along the Des Plaines River is adjacent to Gurnee's Gowe Park at McClure Avenue and O'Plaine Road just south of Grand Avenue, 6.2 miles downstream. This launch also offers a connection to the Des Plaines River Trail.

3. Independence Grove Canoe Launch

Bring your own canoe and launch it on the Des Plaines River right from Independence Grove. The Canoe Launch is located in the northwest corner of Independence Grove Forest Preserve, on Buckley Road (Route 137) east of Milwaukee Avenue (Route 21) in Libertyville.

Follow signs to the Canoe Launch parking area. The launch, located near the preserve's North Bay Pavilion, offers shoreline fishing, a trail connection to the Des Plaines River Trail, and parking.

If you launch your canoe in at Independence Grove, the next Forest Preserve ramp is at Oak Spring Road, 2.7 miles downstream.

4. Oak Spring Road Canoe Launch

The Canoe Launch entrance is located on Oak Spring Road west of Saint Mary’s Road in Libertyville, and is part of Wilmot Woods Forest Preserve.

This launch also offers a connection to the Des Plaines River Trail. If you launch your canoe here, the next Forest Preserve ramp is at Route 60 in Wright Woods Forest Preserve, 4.5 miles downstream.

5. Captain Daniel Wright Woods Canoe Launch (Route 60)

The Canoe Launch entrance is located on Route 60 east of Milwaukee Avenue (Route 21) in Vernon Hills, and is part of Captain Daniel Wright Woods Forest Preserve.

This launch also offers a connection to the Des Plaines River Trail.

Remember the importance of boating safety. To help you learn how to safely canoe or kayak, the Lake County Forest Preserves offers classes taught by American Canoe Association-certified instructors. Learn how to safely canoe or kayak with classes taught by our American Canoe Association-certified instructors. Check the Lake County Forest Preserves calendar of events for upcoming public classes.

Do you have a favorite place to launch a canoe on the Des Plaines River? Share your top spot in the comments section below.

Happy boating!


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