JOLIET – There are guides to biking and hiking trails throughout northern Illinois.
Now, there is a guide to the region’s water trails.
Openlands has launched a new website, www.paddleillinoiswatertrails.org, to help outdoors enthusiasts navigate rivers and streams throughout the area with their paddleboards, kayaks and canoes.
The website provides information on over 500 miles of water trails for non-motorized boating on 10 of the region’s waterways, and promotes paddling as an inclusive activity for local tourism and outdoor recreation.
“This resource makes the region’s waterways more accessible to everyone, even individuals new to paddling who might not own their own equipment,” Openlands Associate Greenways Director Laura Barghusen said.
In Will County, the guide has the DuPage River covered. It highlights the put-in and take-out points such as those at Eaton Preserve in Plainfield, Riverside Parkway in Joliet, and Channahon State Park in Channahon.
It also describes the difficulty level on all water trails and what kinds of landscape and wildlife you may encounter. DuPage River is referred to as a beginner water trail from Bolingbrook to south of Caton Farm Road in Joliet, at which point it becomes an expert level water trail until it ends in Channahon.
Barghusen said the DuPage River is one waterway in which Openlands worked extensively with local jurisdictions on where paddlers should get in and out of the river. Much of the river has developed land nearby.
“They’ve really put a lot of time and thought into access points,” she said, commending the Plainfield Park District and the Forest Preserve District of Will County, to name a couple.
To the south of the Joliet area, the Kankakee River was designated as a National Water Trail in June 2016 for its entirety – from its origin in Indiana to its confluence with the Des Plaines River in Illinois. It is referred to as an intermediate level water trail.
Interactive maps are available for each waterway, indicating launch sites, dams and the paddling difficulty along the trail. Paddlers are also encouraged to help keep the site up-to-date by reporting log jams, unexpected water traffic, wildlife sightings and other significant observations via the comments for each trail.
Water trail planning dates back to the 1990s when a commission was formed to work on a northern Illinois water trail plan that would develop public access to 10 waterways in the region.