Paddle the Chicago River, remove litter and monitor wildlife with Shedd conservation experts.
In Shedd Aquarium’s Kayak for Conservation program, we invite you to join us on one of three 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 habitats. Developed in partnership with environmental not-for-profit Urban Rivers, Shedd’s River Islands contribute to the “Wild Mile” project—the first mile-long floating eco-park on the Chicago River. 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.
Our kayak programs are offered in both English and Spanish. If you'd like the program offered in Spanish, email [email protected].
Ofrecemos nuestros programas de kayak en inglés y español. Si le gustaría tener el programa en español, envíe un correo electrónico a [email protected].
Kayak Chicago: 1220 W LeMoyne, Chicago, IL 60642
Shedd Aquarium is committed to connecting Chicagoans to the Chicago River ecosystem to foster a community dedicated to restoring and protecting it. New this year, you can register for the program by paying what you can—from $20 up to $100 (the base cost per person for operating the program is $35). Your generosity makes it possible for Shedd Aquarium to continue our critical animal care and conservation work and help offset the financial impact of COVID-19 on the aquarium. We thank you for your support.
As you pay what you can, we appreciate your generosity to help offset the financial impact of the pandemic. Your support continues to advocate for our work and sustain us into the future.
Weekly 1.5-hour paddles on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5:30–7 p.m., and Wednesdays and Saturdays, 1:30–3 p.m.
Ages 12+ (anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult)
The River Discovery Tour is a one-and-a-half-hour introductory paddling experience focused on the past, present and future of the Chicago River’s ecology, which has been shaped by human impacts. During this experience guided by Shedd conservation experts, you will gain knowledge of the importance of the Chicago River as habitat and how to help revitalize this resource for wildlife.
Weekly 2-hour trips on Wednesdays, 9:30–11:30 a.m., and every other Friday and Saturday, 9:30–11:30 a.m.
Ages 16+ (anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult)
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 conservation experts, you will engage in litter surveying and monitoring. In the process, you’ll gain the knowledge to become an advocate for Chicago’s “blue-green corridor” while contributing important data to ongoing conservation research.
3-hour trips every other Friday and Saturday, 9:30–12:30 p.m.
Ages 16+ (anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult)
The River Monitors program is for intermediate and advanced paddlers. It 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 conservation expert, you’ll learn and employ wildlife monitoring protocols that contribute critical data to conservation research that helps inform management to improve the health of the Chicago River.
Private group and family experiences
Ages 8+ (anyone under 12 must ride in a tandem with an adult and anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult)
A private kayak experience is available for families and groups of up to eight people for a flat rate of $250 or groups from 9-15 people for $525. Choose from the River Discovery Tour or River Explorers for your group experience.
What to bring
Participants must wear a face covering or mask when within 6 feet of others. We recommend bringing a water bottle and sunscreen and wearing weather-appropriate outdoor clothing and shoes. Please see our FAQs below to learn more about how we are handling COVID-19 to keep participants safe during this program.
Free street parking is readily available; the North & Clybourn/Halsted CTA redline stop is about a half-mile away. For directions using public transportation, visit transitchicago.com.
Paid lockers (quarter operated) are available for storing items you do not want to take in the kayak.
Protecting our participants’ health and safety is the utmost priority at Shedd Aquarium. All staff members and participants will be required to wear masks or face coverings on land but may remove their masks or face coverings while on the river provided they are at least 6 feet from participants outside of their household. Minimum distances of 6 feet will be maintained throughout the program except for staff assistance in and out of the kayaks. All equipment and materials, including kayaks, paddles, life jackets, pens, trash grabbers, etc., will be sanitized prior to use. Hand sanitizer will be available as needed throughout the program.
If you are feeling sick or short of breath, have a fever or cough, or have been around others who have these symptoms, please do not attend your Kayak for Conservation session. Contact Shedd at 312-692-3123 or [email protected] at least 12 hours before the start of your program to cancel or reschedule your ticket for another date. Please let us know if you would like the full amount of your refund or if you would be willing to donate a partial or the full amount to help us mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 on the aquarium.
Individual experience: $20–$100 per participant
The River Discovery or River Explorers options are available for groups of up to 8 for a flat rate of $250.
Contact us by email or call 312-692-3123
Sessions will run from June 17 through Sept. 30.
River Discovery Tour: Weekly paddles on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5:30 to 7 p.m., and Wednesdays and Saturdays, 1:30 to 3 p.m.
River Explorers: Weekly on Wednesdays, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., and every other Friday and Saturday, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
River Monitors: Every other Friday and Saturday, 9:30 to 12:30 p.m.
Groups: Weekly on Wednesdays and Fridays, 1:30 to 3/3:30 p.m., and Saturdays, 3:30 to 5/5:30 p.m. (End times vary according to the program selected.)
Participants must be 16 or older and comfortable operating a kayak to participate in the River Explorers and River Monitors programs, 12 or older to participate in the River Discovery Tour, and 8 or older to participate in a group session. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, and anyone under 12 must paddle with an adult in a tandem kayak.
What to bring and where to meet
Participants are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles and sunscreen, and wear weather-appropriate outdoor clothing and shoes.
Participants must wear a face covering or mask when within 6 feet of others. We recommend bringing a water bottle and sunscreen and wearing weather-appropriate outdoor clothing and shoes. Please see our FAQs to learn more about how we are handling COVID-19 to keep participants safe during this program.
Meeting location: Kayak Chicago - 1220 W LeMoyne, Chicago, IL 60642