Kayak for Conservation

Paddle the Chicago River, remove litter and monitor wildlife with Shedd conservation experts.

Read the program FAQ

Discover Chicago’s emerging “blue-green corridor”

In Shedd Aquarium’s Kayak for Conservation program, we invite you to join us on one of two programs in which you’ll paddle along the North Branch Canal of the Chicago River and visit Shedd’s River Islands, new, uniquely designed floating habitat. Along the way, you’ll learn about the Chicago River ecosystem, discover the native flora and fauna above and below the water’s surface and learn how this new habitat is benefiting native wildlife.

River Explorers

$40 per person / $34 Shedd members
The River Explorers program is a two-hour, entry-level paddling experience focused on acquainting participants with the Chicago River, the threats it faces and ways to take action. Guided by Shedd experts, participants will engage in invertebrate and litter monitoring and gain the knowledge to become advocates of Chicago’s “blue-green corridor” while contributing important conservation data.

Purchase tickets for River Explorers

Got a Scout troop, school group, or corporate team? The River Explorers option is available for groups of up to 15 for a flat rate of $600. Discounted rates are available for not-for-profit organizations and schools. Please contact us at kayak@sheddaquarium.org for more information or call 312-939-2438 to register.

River Monitors

$50 per person / $42 Shedd members
The River Monitors program is for intermediate and advanced paddlers and includes a three-hour experience during which participants gain comprehensive knowledge of the Chicago River, with a deepened understanding of the river’s ecology. Guided by a Shedd expert in wildlife monitoring, participants learn and employ monitoring protocols that contribute critical conservation data for the health of the Chicago River.

Purchase tickets for River Monitors

More about this project

From a low of four species less than 50 years ago, the Chicago River is now home to more than 70 native fish species and provides food and resources to hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Even with these great strides, this ecosystem still has tremendous potential to support greater biodiversity and recreational opportunities. That’s why Shedd Aquarium is teaming up with Urban Rivers, a local not-for-profit organization, to install and nurture floating habitats in the North Branch Canal of the Chicago River. The habitat features dozens of aquatic, wetland and terrestrial plant species to provide food and shelter to local wildlife. Covering more than 500 square feet of the Chicago River near Goose Island, we’re taking the first steps toward creating a one-of-a-kind ecopark, dubbed the “Wild Mile,” and contributing a critical piece to Chicago’s blue-green corridor.

Dates and locations

River Explorers programs are held weekly from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Mondays.

River Monitors programs are held every other week from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Mondays.

Please visit the ticketing site for each program for specific dates and to register.

Group opportunities accommodating up to 15 people are available on select Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Please contact us at kayak@sheddaquarium.org for more information or call 312-939-2438 to register.

Age and requirements

The Kayak for Conservation program is geared toward adults with an interest in kayaking and citizen science. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and comfortable operating a kayak independently.

River Explorers is open to participants of all experience levels. No prior experience required. Participants must be 12 or older.

River Monitors is open to participants who have had previous success in a canoe or kayak. Participants must be 16 or older.

For group reservations, participants must be 12 or older and comfortable operating a kayak independently. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

What do I need to bring?

Detailed instructions specific to your program will be sent to you after signing up for a Kayak for Conservation program. Shedd supplies kayaks, personal floatation devices, paddles, materials and tools for each activity at the site. Participants are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles and sunscreen, and wear weather-appropriate outdoor clothing and shoes. You will be notified in advance if additional items are needed.

What else should I know?

All events are weather dependent.

Participants are responsible for their own transportation to the site. Shedd encourages carpooling or taking public transportation where possible.

Each participant will have to sign waivers to participate in Kayak for Conservation.

Contact Us

Questions? Email us at kayak@sheddaquarium.org.