5 Great Paddleboarding Spots in Illinois

5 Great Paddleboarding Spots in Illinois


Paddleboarding is a unique experience, granting paddlers a new perspective of a river, lake, reservoir, or ocean. Not only is this water sport relaxing, but it’s an excellent core workout, too. Since this is a relatively new activity, it’s still growing in popularity in Illinois. Below are five great paddleboarding spots for new and experienced paddlers. These locations offer amazing views of nature and wildlife. Always wear proper floatation devices and take a few lessons before going out on the water if you’re a newbie. 

1. Three Oaks Recreation Area, Crystal Lake, IL

Three Oaks Recreation Area offers clean, beautiful grounds and sparkling, clear waters. The Board House offers stand-up paddleboarding lessons and rentals for enjoying the South Lake, which takes a couple hours to paddle around. Paddlers can view the plentiful wildlife include fish and turtles while paddleboarding over the clear, calm waters. 

2. Galena River

Enjoy a gentle paddle down the Galena River surrounded by lush vegetation and rugged landscapes. Paddle past Galena’s iconic sights like the bridge and Grant Park with Civil War artifacts. It’s an overall calm paddle and suitable for beginners. You can rent stand-up paddleboards at Fever River Outfitters in Galena. 

3. Des Plaines River

Explore the beauties of Lake County Forest Preserves by taking a scenic paddle down the Des Plaines River. This tree-lined river is the longest stream in the Chicagoland area and ideal for paddlers of all skill levels. Flooding has become an issue with this river, however, so use caution (as always). 

4. Illinois River at Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park is known for its moss-covered stone canyons and spectacular waterfalls. Paddling down the Illinois River provides beautiful views of the sandstone bluffs, lush vegetation, and abundant wildlife. You may even catch a glimpse of a bald eagle. Paddlers should avoid going within 600 feet of the dam due to the powerful currents and undertows. 

5. Loyola Beach, Chicago, IL

View the spectacular city skyline from a paddleboard on beautiful Lake Michigan. Head over to Loyola Beach for a group paddleboarding outing or rent a board and paddle along the shore solo. They offer lessons to teach proper paddleboarding techniques plus the PaddleFit Program, a complete outdoor fitness program that includes both water and land workouts.