Kayaking on the Chicago River

Hope you had a great weekend! We love 4th of July over here at Dose of Discovery, and there was no shortage of festivities this year. If you’re looking for fun outdoor activities in Chicago, we have a great idea to share with you today!

4th of july

Kayaking on the Chicago River

Over 4th of July, our friends Dustin & Denise drove up from Indiana for a visit. We knew we wanted to do something active and outdoorsy while they were here, so we settled on a trip downtown to kayak on the Chicago River.

kayaking on the chicago river

If you’re interested in kayaking downtown, there are 3 main companies that rent kayaks along the river – Kayak Chicago, Urban Kayaks, and Wateriders. All 3 offer both rentals and tours, but each has their own advantages and disadvantages. We ended up renting from Wateriders – read on to find out why!


Kayak Rentals in Downtown Chicago

Located right on the Riverwalk in the heart of downtown Chicago (the one closest to the lake on the map), Urban Kayaks arguably offers the best location. It’s convenient for anyone staying downtown, and you’ll spend all of your time paddling past some of the best views of Chicago from the river.

Wateriders is a close second. We were able to paddle out to one of the last bridges before Lake Michigan and back in little over an hour.

Kayak Chicago is the furthest from downtown. The location is convenient if you’re driving, but you’d have to spend a couple of hours on the water to make it all the way downtown and back.

Rental Price

  • Urban Kayaks – $30/hour per person
  • Wateriders – $20/hour per person
  • Kayak Chicago – $25/hour for a single kayak or $40/hour for a double kayak

Unlike most rental companies, Wateriders charges $5 for every $15 minutes after the first hour – so you don’t get penalized an extra hour if you only go slightly over your time.

Urban Kayaks is the most expensive largely due to their prime location on the new Riverwalk.


We’ve personally rented from both Wateriders and Kayak Chicago and had good experiences at both. The staff was friendly and provided a short safety review with kayaking tips before launching us into the water. Wateriders offers online reservations, and they both usually have kayaks available if it’s not an overly busy weekend.

We’ve never rented from Urban Kayaks, but their website states that they require experience to rent from their downtown location. They’re in a very busy area for boat traffic and a skills test may be required prior to renting a boat. They do offer an Intro Paddle every hour for beginners.

4th of July was a busy weekend to be on the river, but we had a great time! You can’t go wrong with any of these options. Kayaking the river is a great way to actively explore Chicago.

Have you kayaked before? Where’s your favorite place?

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