I Kayaked the Chicago River…And Lived to Tell The Tale!

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do in Chicago was to kayak the Chicago River.

Chicago River at Dusk

Then last summer I heard that the local kayak companies also do nighttime paddles, and they time them perfectly on Wednesdays and Saturdays so that you can be out on the river for the Navy Pier fireworks. Obviously, I had to do that, too. So, when LivingSocial had a deal for a fireworks kayak trip, I talked the BF into buying it for us. This past Wednesday was the big day.

The evening started out a bit rough, when BF didn’t realize until FIFTEEN minutes before we were planning to leave that we were actually going through Urban Kayaks, and NOT through Kayak Chicago. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be such a problem, except for the fact that Kayak Chicago is 5 minutes from our apartment, and Urban Kayaks is down in the Loop.

Needless to say, I was less than thrilled with him that that point. (I am a planner, and if I were in charge of this operation, I would have had visited the website 20 times prior to the big day, and had a map ready days in advance…)

Anyway, I guess I’m just thankful he figured this out 15 minutes before we left, and not once we got there. We managed to make it to the right place on time. Crisis averted.

Urban Kayaks is located on the Riverwalk, between Michigan Ave and the lake, which is actually one of my favorite tucked-away spots in the city. It also makes it pretty convenient for newbies to paddle out to where you can see the fireworks before their arms give out.

We started out by meeting the founders of Urban Kayaks – Aaron, Asher, and James.

Aaron, Asher, and James – Source: Urban Kayaks

I love that these young guys just decided to start up their own business because they loved kayaking so much. You can read their story here. There’s just something about supporting a small business when the owners are doing it because it’s what they love to do.

The session started on land, where we got into our kayaks and Aaron gave us a crash course in Kayaking 101.

The kayaks were waiting for us.

Then, the guys snapped on some lights to the boats, and we were ready to launch. They have a super-handy kayak-specific boat launch that made getting into the water way less scary than I thought. (I should have taken a picture.)

Paddling Toward Trump Tower.

We spent the first half hour paddling toward Michigan Ave to get ourselves comfortable with the boats and kill some time before the fireworks started. We also paused for a few pictures.

Look! I’m kayaking the Chicago River!

Then it was time to turn around and paddle back toward the lake (but not ONTO the lake) for the fireworks.


Overall, this was a really great experience, and I highly recommend it. Despite the chilly weather, it was actually warmer on the water than it was on the street level. Urban Kayaks is super awesome, and once we figured out where to go, I managed not to strangle the BF.

I do think I might also want to try Kayak Chicago, only because its location makes for a longer trip, and I’d like to ¬†paddle through River North – maybe for a day trip on a warmer day.

But if you’re thinking of trying out a Chicago River kayak trip, it’s clear the guys at Urban Kayaks love what they do, and will make sure you have a great time!

7 thoughts on “I Kayaked the Chicago River…And Lived to Tell The Tale!

  1. It sounds like it was an absolutely amazing experience! I’d never heard of nighttime kayaking, but now I am psyched to try it, too! Glad that you were able to avert the location crisis (I’ve been in similar situations with my husband a few times, so I totally relate). Gorgeous pictures!!!!!

  2. I have always wanted to do this! Actually my parents bought what I assume is the same Living Social deal and did this last Sunday (the day before Memorial Day) around 4pm. It would have been funny if you ended up on the same trip as them.

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