Boating Lake County Blog

The Des Plaines River: Paddling Perfection


Beginning as a small prairie creek in southwestern Wisconsin, the Des Plaines River runs southward 133 miles, passing through Lake County and towards Chicago before joining the Kankakee River and forming the Illinois River.

Lake County’s lush 31-mile stretch of the Des Plaines River is a popular destination for paddlers of all ages and skill levels looking for a relaxing day in scenic surroundings. Thanks to the recently completed Lake County Forest Preserves Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway, more than 76 percent of the river in Lake County is now protected from future development.

The Lake County Forest Preserves operates six publicly accessible canoe/​kayak launch sites.

  • Van Patten Woods Canoe Launch (Wadsworth)
  • Sedge Meadow Canoe Launch (Wadsworth)
  • Independence Grove Canoe Launch (Libertyville)
  • Oak Spring Road Canoe Launch (Libertyville)
  • Captain Daniel Wright Woods Canoe Launch (Mettawa)
  • Des Plaines River (Gurnee)

All of the launch areas also provide car parking, as well as shoreline fishing. Some also have trail connections. 

There a few things to be aware of before planning your Des Plaines River adventure:

  • Canoe and kayak safety instruction and other outdoor programs are offered by the Lake County Forest Preserves. Visit www​.lcf​pd​.org to learn more.
  • Always check river conditions and weather before embarking. The Des Plaines River can become fast moving or flood at certain times of the year. Always wear approved flotation gear.
  • If you’re a beginner, the lake at Independence Grove is a perfect place to start because it offers boat rentals and the water is calm. The marina is open seasonally, with weekends only in the (fall through October 14).

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