Kayaking on the Riverwalk

The first time I tried to go kayaking, in Portland, ME, the kayaking company canceled our trip. I had been thwarted by the weather — THANKS, RAIN.

That memory came back to me years later, on a beautiful Wednesday morning in Chicago, IL. The sun was shining…right up until I had made it to the Riverwalk. Ominous, grey clouds started to settle overhead. No rain yet, but the smell of the air suggested that that would change soon.

The folks at Urban Kayaks, to their immense credit, were apologetic and totally flexible. Probable rain meant probable lightning, so they couldn’t take the morning group out on the water. They suggested I come back in the afternoon and they’d squeeze me into another group.

So I came back in the afternoon and they squeezed me into another group. With the sun on our side again, it wasn’t long before we were all sitting in our kayaks, bobbing gently with the current.

While kayaking in the Chicago River, the only major obstacles are the boats. Our guide, Nathan, paddled on our left side at all times so we wouldn’t drift too far out into the middle of the river. He also had a radio so he could keep in contact with the docked boats, just in case they decided to start moving before we were finished paddling past them.

We set the pace and ended up being out on the water for a little under two hours. There was plenty of time to look up at the buildings from the strange, new perspective. And Chicago’s an eerily quiet city to begin with, so it was even more peaceful down on the water, away from the traffic up on the bridges.

The kayaking turned out to be my favorite part of the Chicago trip. If you’ve got a free morning on your hands, I’d highly recommend doing it.

And, now that I know I how to properly kayak…get ready, Portland, ME — I’m coming back for you one day!

Thanks for reading,


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