A unique way to see the Chicago skyline!
Trump Tower at sunset from the Chicago River
As you might infer from the rest of this blog's content, I generally prefer wilderness to city travel. However, I do find urban trips to be very appealing as well; culture, architecture, food, ect. On this trip to Chicago, I was able to have the best of both worlds- kayaking and urban culture! I have done a lot of kayaking in my days, but I don't think I have ever had an experience like this one- kayaking through a major metropolitan area. As it turns out, it was a great day adventure! 

Although I live in Maine, I frequently visit Chicago to see my significant other who works in the city. Funny to think that when I started this blog in 2010, we both lived in Southern California! So this is why I find myself in Chicago more often than most Mainers. She was the one who came up with the great idea to rent a kayak downtown.
Sunset paddling on the Chicago River
Our outfitter for this trip was Urban Kayak which is located right on the riverwalk across from the Sheraton. We rented a tandem kayak and elected to have a sunset tour of the Chicago Skyline. We left right there from the dock and headed towards the locks between the Chicago River and Lake Michigan before turning around and heading back to Wolf Point in the center of the city. We were in a group of 6 and we did the Sunset Paddle.

The trip itself was leisurely enough to enjoy the downtown skyline while getting in a pleasant work out. We were in a tandem kayak and we actually fared quite well. I've been in tandem kayaks before with others and when things really aren't clicking... that can be stressful. However, we did really well. Our relationship survived the true test of harmony- kayaking a tandem kayak! (Single kayaks were available.)

Here is our route!

View Urban Kayaking Chicago in a larger map

At time the boat traffic was busy and our guide made sure we didn't pull anything crazy. There were also some "rapids"- areas where the skyscrapers air conditioning units causes smaller currents. (nothing too difficult!) We paddled under a dozen bridges and watched tourists take pictures of us. Even though the Chicago River is busy with commercial and recreational traffic, it felt like we were on our own out there. We were able to take pictures and enjoy the skyline without worrying about bumping into others and it was much better than doing an architecture tour or just walking around.
Amazing views of the city from the water around Wolf Point
Classic shot of the Near North Side Chicago
Eventually we rounded Wolf Point which was the highlight of the trip. It was a spectacular view from the water- we saw the CTA trains rolling out below the shadows of all Chicago's famous buildings. I've been out this way before on foot and seen the view but there was just something more special about seeing it from the water. I couldn't get enough of it; I'm sure I annoyed my oh-so-patient girlfriend as I continually snapped pictures. What can I say... I was enthralled with the view.

As the sun set, we turned back towards our point of origin. Our guide kept us entertained with quirky stories about Chicago which was a nice addition. The lights of the city started coming on and we were kayaking by city light! It was dusk when we arrived back at the dock and I didn't want to get out. I wanted to head back up the river and keep kayaking by city light. 
Kayaking by city light...
I couldn't believe how much I had enjoyed the trip. I mean, I am used to kayaking places like the Maine Island Trail, the Boundary Waters and the California Channel Islands. I love the challenging wilderness experiences and tough navigation. This trip was entirely different and yet just as enjoyable. For once I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy the scenery without worrying about setting a course or combating currents.

It was a unique trip. I don't think I could have that kind of experience in any other city either. It was a relaxing trip and you didn't have to be an experienced kayaker to enjoy the trip. In my opinion  its the best way to experience the Chicago Skyline.

Read. Plan. Get Out There!