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Illinois’s Finest Paddle Boarding Destinations: From Lakes to Rivers
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Illinois’s Finest Paddle Boarding Destinations: From Lakes to Rivers

Illinois boasts some great places for paddle boarding, from the big city feel of Chicago to calm lakes and meandering rivers. These water bodies provide different experiences for all paddlers. You can skim past Chicago's famous skyline, visit wildlife spots, or tackle rough waters. In this guide, we'll show you the top paddle boarding spots in Illinois. It proves the state's perfect for outdoor adventures. Get ready to see the best paddle boarding spots in the Land of Lincoln.

Key Takeaways

  • Illinois offers a diverse range of paddle boarding destinations, from urban cityscapes to serene lakes and rivers.
  • The Chicago River and surrounding waterways provide a dynamic paddle boarding experience, with stunning skyline views and various skill-level options.
  • Tranquil Illinois lakes, such as the South Lagoon in Lincoln Park, offer a peaceful paddle boarding retreat for beginners and experienced paddlers.
  • Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes, presents a unique inland sea paddle boarding adventure with varying conditions to explore.
  • Rivers like the Galena River and Starved Rock State Park offer multi-day paddle boarding excursions through diverse natural landscapes.

Paddle Boarding the Urban Landscapes of Chicago

If you love paddle boarding, Illinois has a special surprise for you. Explore Chicago's urban waterways for a unique adventure. The Chicago River is famous for its three different branches, each with its own charm.

The Chicago River

The North Branch is perfect for a calm, peaceful ride surrounded by nature. The Main Branch shows off the city's skyscrapers, giving you an amazing view of Chicago. On the South Branch, you'll see the city's industrial side, with big boats along the shore.

To paddle the Chicago River, start at Ping Tom Park in Chinatown. Paddle about 4 miles to the lake. Be ready for lots of boats and some rough waters. This journey is best for those with some paddle boarding experience.

Goose Island and the Wild Mile

Goose Island and the Wild Mile is another great spot. It's an urban oasis away from the city buzz. The Wild Mile trail is calm and beautiful. You can see wildlife and enjoy the quiet.

If you're new to paddle boarding or a seasoned pro, Chicago has something for you. From the lively Chicago River to the peace of Goose Island, there are many places to explore. These spots let you see Chicago's famous places and natural beauty up close.

Serene Paddle Boarding on Illinois Lakes

Illinois is a great place for peaceful paddle boarding on calm lakes. The

South Lagoon in Lincoln Park

is perfect for both beginners and those with experience. Here, you'll find quiet waters and amazing city views. Diversey Harbor is close by, offering easy access and SUP rentals for paddle boarding Illinois lakes fun.

Many people also choose to paddle board at

Big Bend Lake

, just west of Chicago. It's a hidden gem for a peaceful paddle. You can see local wildlife and enjoy the quiet nature.

For a calm escape from the city, try the

Skokie Lagoons

. It has many lakes and waterways perfect for paddle board rentals Illinois. This natural area is a beautiful spot. It's a great way to see stunning views and enjoy the lakes in Illinois.

Illinois offers many options for both new and experienced paddle boarders. You can learn, relax, and enjoy quiet nature on the state's lakes.

Illinois paddle boarding on the Mighty Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan is a top destination for paddle boarders in Illinois. It offers vast waters with ocean-like conditions. You can enjoy the gentle waves in Muskegon, Michigan, or try more challenging areas at Holland State Park.

The eastern shores near Chicago are perfect for a peaceful paddle boarding trip. Here, you can see beautiful views of the Chicago skyline. Rentals and lessons are easy to find, whether you're a first-timer or an expert. This makes exploring Lake Michigan's beauty very accessible.

Want a more exciting time? Head to the lake's western side for tougher conditions. Places like Holland State Park have rough waves and strong currents. It's perfect for testing your paddle boarding skills and stamina.

No matter your level, paddle boarding on Lake Michigan is an amazing adventure. Imagine paddling by Chicago's iconic skyline or taking on challenge at open waters. This experience lets you see the lake's stunning power and beauty up close.

Explore Nature's Wonders on Rivers

The Galena River is perfect for a long paddle boarding trip. It spans 52 miles and has scenic views of Grant Park. You can see Civil War spots and a mix of landscapes, from hills to rock formations. A highlight is the 650-foot railway tunnel that's fun to visit on your SUP journey.

Salt Creek

Salt Creek flows through lush western suburban greenery. It's great for a peaceful paddle boarding experience, away from the city rush. The calm water and beautiful views are ideal for both beginners and intermediate boarders.

Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park is a must-see for nature-loving paddlers. Its canyons, waterfalls, and cliffs offer an incredible backdrop for paddling. Launch your board from special points to explore this beautiful yet challenging area by water.

Paddle Board Yoga and Unique Experiences

Want to make your paddle boarding in Illinois more unique? Why not try SUP yoga on Bangs Lake? Hosted by Stand up and Flow, this glacial lake is perfect for balancing and finding peace.

SUP Yoga on Bangs Lake

Picture yourself doing yoga poses on a paddle board in Bangs Lake's calm water. This paddle board yoga activity is both relaxing and refreshing.

It's great for all, whether you're a yoga fan or trying it for the first time. Trained instructors from Stand up and Flow will help you. They'll teach you poses that suit this unique experience on the water.

For a different twist, Bangs Lake is also perfect for paddle board fishing in Illinois. You can fish from a paddle board's stable base. This lets you get to fishing spots you couldn't reach from land. Plus, you can enjoy the calm of this beautiful glacial lake.

Paddle Boarding Safety and Etiquette

In Illinois, your paddle board safety matters a lot. Always wear a life jacket that fits well. Before you go, check the weather and how rough the water is. Watch out for boat traffic, especially in busy places like the Chicago River.

It’s key to keep a safe distance from boats. This avoids accidents out on the water.

Respecting others while on your paddle board is crucial. Let bigger boats go first and say hi to those around you (even if it's just a wave). When you paddle, try not to make big waves to keep people safe. And for the love of the water, don’t leave your trash behind. It’s rude and messes up the beautiful paddle boarding Illinois spots for everyone else.

Paddle Boarding Safety Tips Paddle Boarding Etiquette Guidelines
  • Wear a properly fitted life jacket
  • Check weather and water conditions before launching
  • Be aware of boat traffic, especially in urban areas
  • Maintain a safe distance from other water users
  • Yield to larger boats and vessels
  • Be courteous to fellow paddlers, swimmers, and anglers
  • Avoid creating wakes that could disturb or endanger others
  • Clean up any litter or debris before leaving the site

Stick to these rules for paddle board safety and good manners. You'll have a blast gliding across Illinois's waters. Plus, the locals and the environment will thank you for it.


Illinois might not be your first thought for paddle boarding, but it's full of waterways. It welcomes paddlers of any skill. From Chicago's city vibe to quiet lakes and rivers, Illinois has many paddle boarding spots.

Are you dreaming of gliding by Chicago's skyscrapers or bird watching in nature? Perhaps you long for a challenge on rough waters. Illinois offers it all. You can easily find rentals and tours to discover the state's top paddle boarding areas. It's a chance to dive into Illinois' unique experiences.

So, get your board ready and head to Illinois. From the city to quiet retreats, the Land of Lincoln is full of wonders. It's a place that will win over anyone who loves paddle boarding.


What are some of the best paddle boarding destinations in Illinois?

Illinois is full of great spots for paddle boarding. You can board in the city on the Chicago River or enjoy the calm of nature on its many lakes and rivers. Top spots to check out are the Chicago River, South Lagoon in Lincoln Park, and Lake Michigan. Also, don't miss the Galena River and Bangs Lake for relaxing SUP yoga.

Can I rent paddle boards and take lessons in Illinois?

Absolutely! Many places in Illinois, especially Chicago, rent out paddle boards and give lessons. It's a great way to get started or improve your skills.

What safety precautions should I take when paddle boarding in Illinois?

Safety first when paddle boarding in Illinois! Always wear a life jacket that fits well. Check the weather and water conditions before you go. Watch out for boats, especially in Chicago, and keep your distance from them.

Can I try SUP yoga in Illinois?

Yes, you can do SUP yoga in Illinois. Head to Bangs Lake for a unique experience. The Stand Up and Flow group offers sessions there. It's perfect for relaxing and finding inner peace while on the water.

What are some of the challenges and highlights of paddle boarding on the Chicago River?

The Chicago River is great for paddle boarding but also brings its own challenges. There are three parts to it. The North Branch goes through nature, the Main Branch is downtown, and the South Branch shows the industrial side. Though it's best for those familiar with paddle boarding, seeing Chicago's skyline from the water is breathtaking.



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