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Shedd Opens Registration for Summer Kayaking Experiences

Shedd’s “Kayak for Conservation” Will Help the Public Get Outside and See Nature on the Chicago River

May 13, 2021

A young woman in a kayak grins as she compares a small fish in a scoop container to an illustration.

As the City of Chicago continues to lift COVID-19 restrictions and inch toward full reopening, Shedd Aquarium is opening up a way for the public to safely get outside and experience the beauty of Chicago—by way of kayak! Starting today, the public can register for Shedd’s popular Kayak for Conservation program, which offers a suite of socially-distant kayaking experiences on the Chicago River that begin on June 3. Open to all levels of kayakers (including those who’ve never kayaked before), the program enables participants to see Chicago from a unique and peaceful vantage point, learn about the Chicago River’s environmental history and discover wildlife living in the river’s ecosystem. Led by Shedd’s wildlife conservation experts, participants can also make an impact for animals as they help clean up litter floating on the river’s surface and contribute to ongoing research efforts to understand how best to improve the waterway for humans and animals alike.

“Our Chicago community has spent the last year working together to fight against COVID-19 and kayaking on the river offers a great way to relax, enjoy nature and experience Chicago in a brand new way,” said Jackie Majdov, manager of conservation stewardship at Shedd Aquarium. “We hope to bring individuals, families, couples and friends out on the Chicago River this summer so that every person who calls the Chicago-area or Midwest home also knows what wildlife we share it with. With every paddle, we’ll make a lasting difference for wildlife.”

Kayaking sessions are currently available through July 17, with more spots opening on July 1 for sessions that run through October 2. As ticket sales were exclusively available to Shedd Aquarium Members until today, availability is limited and going fast. Interested participants can book their Kayak for Conservation sessions online while available at www.sheddaquarium.org/kayak.

With four types of kayaking sessions, the public can choose one that suits their interests, kayaking skill level and desire to get hands-on. Additionally, Shedd Aquarium is offering the opportunity to pay what you can for your Kayak for Conservation experience of choice. While $40 is the suggested price per person, price options range from $20 to $100. Participants’ generosity will help Shedd continue critical animal care and conservation work and help offset the financial impact of pandemic-related aquarium closures.

“With every paddle, we’ll make a lasting difference for wildlife.”

Jackie Majdov, manager of conservation stewardship at Shedd Aquarium

2021 Kayak for Conservation experiences include:

River Discovery: Beginner Kayak Tour

This introductory paddling experience focuses on the past, present and future of the Chicago River’s ecology and how it has been shaped by human behavior. You will also explore the importance of the Chicago River as a habitat and how to help revitalize this resource for wildlife. The River Discovery tour does not include river cleanup activities.

  • When: Thursdays at 5 p.m. | every other Friday and Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
  • Tour Length: 2 hours
  • Ages: 12+ (anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult)
  • Experience requirements: Beginner, none needed

River Explorers: Beginner Kayak Tour + Litter Monitoring

This entry-level paddling experience is focused on acquainting you with the Chicago River, the threats it faces and how you can take action to help it. As you paddle, you will learn about plans to develop the Chicago River as a blue-green corridor of accessible, public space that benefits people as well as wildlife and how you can be an advocate. The tour will include river cleanup activities and litter monitoring, and all litter-focused data collected will contribute to important scientific research being conducted by Loyola University.

  • When: Every other Friday and Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
  • Tour Length: 2 hours 
  • Ages: 16+ (anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult)
  • Experience Requirements: Beginner, none needed

River Monitors: Intermediate Kayak Tour + Litter and Wildlife Monitoring

This intermediate kayaking experience will help you gain more comprehensive knowledge of the Chicago River, with a deepened understanding of the river’s ecology. As you paddle, you will learn and deploy wildlife monitoring protocols that contribute critical data to Shedd Aquarium’s research studies of the river that aim to help improve the health of the Chicago River. 

  • When: Every other Friday and Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
  • Tour Length: 3 hours 
  • Ages: 16+ (anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult)
  • Experience Requirements: Past kayak experience recommended but not required

Private Group and Family Kayak Tour – SOLD OUT (more will become available on July 1)

A private group kayak tour will focus on the past, present and future of the Chicago River’s ecology and how it has been shaped by human behavior. You will also explore the importance of the Chicago River as a habitat and how to help revitalize this resource for wildlife. Private tours do not include river clean up.

  • When: See available dates online when booking tickets
  • Tour Length: 2 hours
  • Ages: 6+ (anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and anyone under the age of 12 must kayak in a tandem with an adult)
  • Cost: $250 for groups up to 8 / $600 for groups of 9-15
  • Experience Requirements: Beginner, none needed
  • Registration: Online here

During the kayaking experiences, participants will explore Shedd’s River Islands, which are custom-built floating habitats that host plant species that grow both above and below the water’s surface and feature several habitat structures intended to welcome wildlife. Developed in partnership with environmental nonprofit Urban Rivers, Shedd’s River Islands also help improve the water quality of the North Branch Canal of the Chicago River and provide an immersive nature experience for people who visit. During their paddle toward these habitats, Kayak for Conservation participants are likely to see painted and red-eared slider turtles, multiple species of herons and ducks, honeybees, butterflies and more.

Data collected around Shedd’s River Islands during Kayak for Conservation sessions will contribute to ongoing research led by Shedd Aquarium Research Biologist Dr. Austin Happel, who is studying the presence of fish spawning around the islands to document how the islands are helping create habitats for local species, and Loyola University Associate Professor Dr. Tim Hoellein, who is studying the composition and source of litter entering the Chicago River.

For more information about Kayak for Conservation, visit www.sheddaquarium.org/kayak.

VISUALS: High resolution photos are available for download: 

https://personal.filesanywhere... credit: ©Shedd Aquarium