Rollin’ on the river

If you’re an Illinois native, chances are you’ve hit the beaches of Lake Michigan a time or two. This summer, change it up! For a truly fun and memorable aquatic adventure, take your kids for a trip in a canoe, kayak or rowboat on one of the many other waterways in the area. It’s a chance to get a new perspective and connect—with nature and your kids.

Get wet and wild(life) with Chicago River Canoe& Kayak

Chicago River Canoe& Kayak is a great choice for wildlife fans. The company welcomes kids 3 and up and offers lots of options, including boat rentals and guided trips. It has a North Side launch on the Chicago River, which can be a good place to spot turtles, as well as at Busse Lake in Elk Grove Village, where you may see some egrets, and at the Skokie Lagoons, which has a heron rookery.

“If you’ve never paddled before and you’re bringing young kids, the Lagoons and Busse Lake are a little easier because there is no current, but we get beginners at all three launches and they do well,” advises Ryan Chew, founder of Chicago River Canoe& Kayak.

Row, row, row your boat in the Western ‘burbs

If you’re going to sing the nursery song, you should at least trying rowing your own boat at least once, right? At Silver Lake in Warrenville and Herrick Lake in Wheaton, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County rents rowboats, canoes and kayaks for $10 an hour and $50 per day. If you’d rather not have to rely on your own power (have you been skipping arm day at the gym?), the district also rents rowboats with trolling motors for $15 an hour or $75 per day. Everyone must wear a personal flotation device.

Paddle and play at the Monee Reservoir

The most popular site for canoeing and kayaking in the Forest Preserve District of Will County is the Monee Reservoir, where canoes, kayaks, pedal boats and rowboats are available for rental at a starting cost of $7 an hour, $25 for half-day and $30 per day. On June 28, the district will host the You Too Can Canoe event for ages 7 and up from 6-8:30 p.m. It will include basic canoeing instruction (no canoe experience is necessary), an excursion on the water, and making s’mores by the fire. Cost is $12 a person. Kids 7-17 must be accompanied by a registered adult for the event, and registration is required by June 24. Children are welcome as long as they are with a parent, wearing a life vest and fit the limits of the boat.

Go west with Fox River Canoe& Kayak

Fox River Canoe& Kayak offers three different outings farther outside the city. The 3-mile Batavia trip takes about an hour, and is unsurprisingly the most popular option for young families. It costs $40 per canoe or kayak. If you’re feeling more hardcore, longer trips from St. Charles and North Aurora are available for $60 per canoe or kayak. These trips are more popular with older kids and scout groups. Children of any age and size are welcome with a parent, who must sign a waiver.

Enjoy a lovely day on the lake in Libertyville

The Lake County Forest Preserve rents fishing boats, canoes, kayaks and more at the marina at Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville, so families can explore the 115-acre lake. Kids 11 and under must be accompanied by an adult when on the water, but there are no age restrictions for passengers. Canoe rates start at $10 for the first hour and $5 after that.

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