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The New Year's Day Canoe Paddle


Happy Canoe Year! On January 1, 2014, the Forest Preserves of Cook County will host the annual New Year’s Day Canoe Paddle down the North Branch of the Chicago River. Experienced paddlers are invited to participate in this free event, which begins below the Skokie Lagoons and finishes approximately four miles later in Linne Woods. In past years, more than 300 people have participated.

The New Year’s Day Canoe Paddle is presented in conjunction with the Illinois Paddling Association and supported by Prairie State Canoeists. The event was founded in 1985 by Ralph Frese.

Participants must bring their own boats and personal floatation devices and dress in clothing that retains warmth if wet. All participants will be checked for proper clothing and equipment before launching.

Paddling any river in cold weather is inherently dangerous. This event is best suited to experienced paddlers and/or people with experience in cold-weather sports.



The trip begins in Winnetka, east of the Edens, just north of the intersection of Willow Road and Forestway Drive. Access to the boat launch is just below the Willow Road Dam. The trip ends at the Linne Woods Canoe Access a few hundred yards downstream from the horse bridge in Linne Woods. Linne Woods is in Morton Grove, on Dempster Street at Ferris Ave., east of Lehigh Ave.


January 1, 2014; boats launch between 9 and 11 am. Participants should plan to drop their gear at the Willow Road Dam, and then drive their cars to the Linne Woods finish point. Shuttle buses will provide transportation between the two locations from 8 am – 2pm. Paddlers should allow 45 to 60 minutes for the bus shuttle and two to three hours for the paddle itself.
Warm up at Linne Woods afterwards. We will provide hot beverages, a snack and have a fire going as well.

CANCELLATION POLICY: In the event of severe or inclement weather, an official announcement will be made on the cancellation of the paddle by December 30 at 10 am. If in doubt, please check this page for the latest information.


Other Important Infromation:

Paddlers must wear a Personal Flotation Device and clothing that retains warmth when wet (layering of wool or fleece and synthetic undergarments works best.) Participants are encouraged to bring non-alcoholic beverages, a complete change of warm clothes in a waterproof container, a cell phone waterproofed in a zip-lock freezer bag, and a hearty sense of humor.
All participants will be required to answer YES to the statements in the checklist below and sign a waiver before launching.  Are you prepared for winter paddling?

Download the Happy Canoe Year Canoe and Kayak Paddlers Safety Checklist before you go.