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Best Places to Paddleboard in the United States – Illinois 2021

Illinois SUP

1: Galena River

Galena River SUP
At 52 miles long, the Galena River offers plenty of incredible sights in and out of the water, especially for those wanting to go on a touring adventure. If you’re a history buff, the Galena River offers excellent views of Grant Park and other Civil War-era sights, as the river passes through the hometown of nine famous Civil War generals.

If you prefer nature to history, the Galena River is famous for the unusually large number of beans that grow along its banks, attracting all sorts of wildlife ranging from bald eagles to wolves! There’s also a fair amount of fishing to do from Galena River, so troll along and see if you can hook and maybe even cook some Trout for an evening meal.

Whether it be for a single day or multi-day journey, considering paddling along the Galena River.

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 190
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to Galena, 1 Hour and 30 Minutes to Rockford
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Limited
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

2: Loyola Beach

Loyola Beach SUP
Most visitors to Illinois are going to wind up in Chicago eventually, at which point you’ll want to go to Loyola Beach. Located on Lake Michigan, Loyola Beach has vendors and tour guides who will help you navigate the waters, instruct you in the ways of yoga, or help you learn about the city’s history.

There are calm and windy days alike, so if you want to get some surfing or wind foiling in, Loyola Beach is the destination to do it. Loyola Beach is one of the most popular beaches, so if you want a challenge or to get away from the crowds, you can paddle on over to the Montrose, Greenwood, or Foster Beaches instead.

If you’re visiting the heart of the midwest, take some time to paddle along Loyola and other Chicago beaches while you’re visiting the area.

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 189
Distance to Major Cities: Direct access to Chicago
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

3: Chicago Riverwalk

Chicago Riverwalk SUP
The beaches have their attractions, but something else that’s fun to do with a paddleboard in Chicago is to explore the river walks. The easiest and most popular section is the famous Chicago Loop, the second most popular commercial district in all of the United States. By exploring the district from a paddleboard, you’ll be able to take your time and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the area without dealing with the heavy foot traffic that takes up the city streets.

The Chicago Riverwalk is a better option for beginners and families than the lake due to the more shallow waters and the buffered shores that reduce the impact wind has on the area. If you want an alternative to visiting Chicago’s many beaches, take the time and paddle around the river walks instead!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 189
Distance to Major Cities: Direct access to Chicago
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

4: Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake SUP

Located on the outskirts of Chicago, Crystal Lake is both the city’s name and its lake. It is an easy to access destination that offers a calm, family-friendly environment. These calm waters make it easy for beginners to learn on, but the occasional wind attracts many surfers and wind foilers.

Fishing is also very popular at Crystal Lake, with competitions focusing on catching the biggest Channel Catfish. Three Oaks Recreation provides plenty of gear rental options and helps provide tours, yoga sessions, and other paddleboarding experiences for those who want a guided session.

If you’re in Chicago but want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city without driving too far, make a trip out to Crystal Lake.

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 189
Distance to Major Cities: Direct access to Chicago
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

5: Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park SUP
Most visitors to the state of Illinois, especially Chicago, tend to forget that it’s a mid-western state, with beautiful sights and landmarks if you know where to look. The Illinois River provides water access to many of these sights, but if you want a place to go in particular, make a stop at the Starved Rock State Park.

While it’s located close to Chicago, the Starved Rock State Park is filled with sandstone bluffs, waterfalls, and lush fields of moss. You can catch a glimpse of the occasional bald-eagle or wolf, and you’ll likely see Gray and Red Foxes if you paddle around for long enough.

You can also go on a touring adventure of the greater 273 mile Illinois River from the state park, where you’ll get some great white water paddling experience. If you don’t mind making your way out of Chicago, there’s excellent paddleboarding in places such as the Starved Rock State Park.

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 189
Distance to Major Cities: 1 Hour and 30 Minutes to Chicago
Motor Vehicles Allowed: No
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

Conclusion: Plan Your Paddle Board Trip and Have Fun!

Thank you so much for reading our top paddleboarding destinations in the state of Illinois! We’ve had the chance to visit a couple of these places, we rely on the aid and reviews of other paddlers to develop this list. If you’ve been to any of these places or have a place you want to suggest that we add to our list, leave a comment below or send us an email with your thoughts.

While you’re visiting our website, check out our top 15 paddleboarding destinations in the United States, or one of the other states in our paddleboarding by state series. We also publish reviews, instructional guides, and videos on popular paddleboards here at SUPBorardGuide.com, so check those out if you want up to date thoughts on trends in the paddleboard industry.

Thank you again for visiting us, and we hope you stay safe and have fun as you explore the beaches, lakes, and state parks found in Illinois!

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Heyo! At SupBoardGuide.com we are a team who love the water, the outdoors, and are more than grateful that our full-time job allows us to review stand up paddle boards. We paddle year round (it helps that we are just about 2 hours outside of Las Vegas), and we bring in a wide range of paddlers with the goal of providing our readers with the best, most in-depth, and accurate stand up paddle board reviews.

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