With Lake Michigan to the northeast, the Mississippi River to the west, and plenty of water in between, Illinois is home to plenty of water sports activities.
Here are five of our favourite ways to make a splash in Illinois, whether you’re looking to relax or out for adventure.
Stand-Up Paddleboarding on Lake Michigan
For those who have to ask, what exactly is this? It’s easy. Paddleboarding is actually a derivative of an ancient Polynesian practice, but today it’s just known as a ridiculously fun and challenging water adventure, termed ‘SUP’ for short. Picture yourself canoeing standing-up, except you’re doing it on an oversized surfboard rather than a stable canoe. Now, to be real, SUP isn’t for the weak and weary – it’s tough work! But may the heart-healthy among us rejoice, because battling through this fun-filled full-body workout rewards you with a view you certainly can’t find at any city health club.
Where to Do It
Chicago SUP at North Avenue Beach
Jet-Skiing on the Third Coast
For those who feed off of feeling the rush, how better to get your summer speed fix than the wet ’n wild way? You can view the iconic Chicago skyline while you zip across the bright blue waters of Lake Michigan. You can get two on – one up front, one holding on for dear life because all the cc’s packed into these bad boys means one thing – it’ll be one heck of a ride!
Be sure to bring your cheapest sunglasses to block the sun and the spray, but the lifejackets are already provided.
Where to Do It
Chicago Jet Ski Rentals at 31st Street Harbor. Looking for something more cutting-edge when it comes to watersports? They also offer flyboarding, where you can work to find your balance in a water-powered jet pack as you hover above the water à la Iron Man. You’ve seen it, now do it.
Nothing beats the beauty of a paddle down the Chicago River for a more low-key day on the water. Float your way through the heart of the city on a guided tour taking you past the Opera House, Willis Tower, River City and Chinatown, or take off from Lagoons Launch for a more secluded, out-of-the-city feel, as you paddle through wooded ponds. On a guided tour from Lagoons you can also catch a summer sunset and enjoy a picnic dinner, without having to pack it! Go solo or with a friend or two, just be sure to invite the ones with the best balance!
Where to do it
Chicago River with Kayak Chicago.
Wakeboarding in Rockford
Grab your wakeboard and get ready to enjoy Rockford’s only wake park. West Rock Wake Park offers would-be water skippers the opportunity to wakeboard, without the need for a boat. How? It’s done by using a cables and a pulley system to propel wake boarders across Levings Lake on Rockford’s Southwest side. Its electric-powered cable system is suspended above the water by on-shore towers that propel riders across the lake surface while holding a tow rope. With two straight-line runs that span the width of the lake, it sounds complicated but it works. On the water are a few obstacles and a kicker ramp that resembles a floating skate park, so you can get some showing off in.
River Rafting in Oglesby
The Vermillion River is anyone into fishing’s dream, with numerous eddies, slack pools, and rocky shorelines. It’s also one of the state’s best places to take a white-water rafting excursion. The big Vermillion River starts its 50-mile course as a pair of creeks on the border of Ford and Livingston counties, deepens as it rolls through Pontiac to the dam at Streator, picks up speed as it winds through Matthiessen State Park and empties into the Illinois River near LaSalle/Peru. There are 14 sets of rapids along the ten-mile stretch, with most of the rapids being classified as 1 and 2’s, making it perfect for beginners or scaredy cats. Fun fact? The Vermillion is one of the rare rivers that runs south to north and there is little-to-no development along the River Banks so you feel fully-immersed in nature.
Where to Do It
Oglesby with Vermillion River Rafting