Spring is in full swing, and already your summer sched is filling with incoming visitors. While the various boat tours traversing Lake Michigan and the Chicago River are a reliable go-to for out-of-town guests, how many times can you hear “Mies van der Rohe” before you’re snooze cruising in the sun? For an active take on the waterway tour try seeing Chicago by kayak.
There are several companies that guide kayak tours in the city, but I’d recommend Kayak Chicago. Offering tours by day, night, architectural sites, or sunset Kayak Chicago has any vantage covered. The Fireworks Paddle tour ($65) is a gorgeous way to watch the sun dim on the skyline and city lights reflect luminously on the river.
No kayaking experience is required, but I’d think twice about bringing the athletically averse on this tour. I’d also advise against the two-person kayak, despite how effective you deem your couple’s communication. Unless you regularly work the core kayaking muscle groups, you’re going to feel the burn a little. At first, I gazed longingly toward the passing booze cruises, but I found my paddling stride and enjoyed taking an active role in sight-seeing.
Just as different sights capture my attention whether I’m running, driving, or walking, it’s interesting to admire the city gliding at water level. I somewhat expected the Chicago River to look like the cave in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, ghostly souls glaring up from beneath the surface. Fortunately, the worst I saw was the expected bit of trash. While the eye is naturally drawn to the skyscraper preening above, kayaking allows you to admire the gulls nesting amid ancient driftwood.
Fireworks tours take place on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Unfortunately, a violent storm chose to roll into town the evening of my tour so instead of a reprieve with a majestic view, my tired arms had to paddle double-time back upriver before it hit. Kayak Chicago was kind enough to offer everyone in the group a complimentary tour as compensation. Before turning back we plunged through the water arc at Melas Centennial Fountain, an exhilarating way to anoint yourself in the Chicago River experience.
The next time you wave down to kayakers on the river, take a moment to notice what they’re seeing from below. To kayak the Chicago River, you must become aware of its movement, patterns, and passing watercraft – you must connect with the living artery of the city.
1501 N. Magnolia Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622