Kayaking the Chicago River

Over the summer, we wanted to expand our dating repertoire to include something a little adventurous and very specific to our city. The City Lights Night Paddle with Kayak Chicago fit the bill perfectly. We had both kayaked before, but not together and never at night. The sites around the Chicago River are captivating enough even when you’re not right down in the water, but when you add in the city lights, a tandem kayak and a moderate arm workout, it truly makes for a memorable experience.

For this date, we booked our tickets a month in advance, as the days the tours were offered seemed to fill up quickly. Upon arrival, the group for our time slot was divided into two smaller groups of about 30-40 people each. Each person had the choice of selecting a single kayak or a tandem. Although we registered for tandem tickets, they didn’t seem to mind which you chose on that day.

Our evening began with a 30-45 minute on-land orientation, which was half silly and half necessary. From there, as a group, we carried the kayaks down to the dock and with the aid of their 5-6 person staff, were launched into the Chicago River.

Once the entire group was in the river, off we paddled. At the helm of the staff/leaders, we consistency paddled at a medium pace and were warned to stay close to the river’s edge when avoiding passing barges, larger party boats, and the like. From our journey’s launch point north of Goose Island to the farthest point we reached (which was just under/east of the Clark Street Bridge), the distance for each leg of the tour was around two and a half miles. Once we reached that halfway point, we rested for about 10-15 minutes, and then got to paddling back to where we came from. About halfway into our paddle back, body parts started hurting. Namely, our arms and back. Like we mentioned, it’s a bit of work out–but totally worth it. All together, the experience checked out to be about three hours long (give or take) and four thumbs up (rating from us).

If you’re interested in planning a similar date, here are a few things we’d recommend:

  1. Eat before you go. For two people who work on out on the reg, it was tiring. And don’t drink (/drink too much) beforehand either.
  2. Look into bringing/buying a waterproof phone pouch. You’ll want to take photos.
  3. Wear the most water repellent pants or shorts you can find. No one wants that thigh rash from stewing in river water for at least two hours in tight, wet cotton.

And lastly, if pretty city lights aren’t your thing, Kayak Chicago offers a few other tours that we haven’t done (i.e. fireworks paddle on the river, sunset on the lake, shoreline stand up paddle-boarding, etc.). If you attempt one of these aquatic adventures for yourself, have fun and let us know what you think!

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