A Little Time and a Keyboard: One, Two, Three, Switch: Family Canoeing Resources in the Chicago Suburbs

Friday, July 17, 2020

One, Two, Three, Switch: Family Canoeing Resources in the Chicago Suburbs

One, Two, Three, Switch: Family Canoeing Resources in the Chicago Suburbs by Shylo Bisnett


One, Two, Three, Switch: Family Canoeing Resources in the Chicago Suburbs by Shylo Bisnett

Summer is the time to explore! I am so happy to bring you this guest post by fellow Chicago-based freelance writer Shylo Bisnett detailing her first experience canoeing on Busse Lake with the family! Enjoy the adventure and learn how you can enjoy canoeing in the Chicago suburbs!

So many summer activities have been cancelled by COVID, but summer doesn’t have to be cancelled. We’re all trying to reconnect with the great outdoors, but even with most park districts, community pools, and even Chicago beaches closed, there’s plenty of recreation to be had.
My kids and I love the water, but our stand-up paddle board’s in the Shop of Mom for repairs. We’ve been wanting to try out kayaking or canoeing—and why not now, in the middle of a heat wave? While many commercial and municipal rental operations are closed for the season due to the pandemic, there are still a few to choose from.


Nature lovers enjoy kayaking and canoeing on Busse Lake. Image credit Melissa Schwartz.
Nature lovers enjoy kayaking and canoeing on Busse Lake. Image credit Melissa Schwartz.
Our nearest option was Chicago River Canoe & Kayak, a vendor hosted by the Forest Preserves of Cook County at several locations around the area, although only two are currently renting. We headed for the Busse Lake location and were greeted by a nicely appointed boathouse, friendly, helpful and masked employees—plus 89-degree weather at 9:15 a.m.!
We rented a canoe instead of a kayak, due to our odd-numbered party. I’d never taken the kiddos (ages 11 and six) on watercraft like this, but the team at Busse Lake assured me that they rent to families all the time. All of us were required to wear personal flotation devices anyway, and the lake isn’t very deep. After a quick lesson on proper paddle placement, we piled in the canoe and pushed off. My 11-year-old, a dab hand at rowing after several seasons of nature camp, piloted from the front of the boat, while my six-year-old relaxed from his perch in the middle of the boat.


Canoeing with kids at Busse Lake. Image credit Shylo Bisnett.
Canoeing with kids at Busse Lake. Image credit Shylo Bisnett.
We navigated around several little islands, up to edges of sedges and reeds where we gazed at what we learned later are double-crested cormorants. These unusual birds look like jet-black geese with patches of blood-red on their cheeks. Perched high up in dead threes, they did a hypnotic kind of shimmy. Large blooms of dragonflies also skimmed the surface of the water, tumbling around our boat to the particular delight of my little one. Busse Lake is a favorite among nature-spotters, and now we count ourselves among their number.


Double-crested cormorants perched in a tree at Busse Lake. Image credit Shylo Bisnett.
Double-crested cormorants perched in a tree at Busse Lake. Image credit Shylo Bisnett.
Our outing lasted a full hour, but older children or more seasoned boaters could probably go for two. It was lovely to commune with nature, but I was also pleasantly surprised that we were able to coordinate our paddles easily and without squawking. When we returned to the dock, we donned our masks so the guide could help us de-boat and directed us to deposit our life jackets into a disinfecting pool. The boat we’d rented would then be cleaned and left unrented for the next 72 hours, just to be COVID careful.
We’ll be back for sure—this time with binoculars for more bird spotting!


Summertime at Busse Lake! Image credit: Melissa Schwartz.
Summertime at Busse Lake! Image credit: Melissa Schwartz.
Top Tips: 
  • Carry just your essentials in a waterproof boating bag, or at least a heavy-duty freezer bag.
  • Make sure your smallest child meets the vendor’s specs.
  • Bring a post-paddle tummy-settling snack in case you get queasy.
  • Wear hats and long pants.
Area Vendors & Resources:
ChicagoRiver Canoe & Kayak (Currently open in Elk Grove Village and Orland Park)
$20 per hour; discount after two hours
OpenlandsWater Trails Map & Vendor List

Shylo Bisnett is a Chicago-based freelance writer. She lives with her two energetic boys on Chicago's northwest side, You can find her at useyourhands.com or on Twitter, @shylobisnett.
One, Two, Three, Switch: Family Canoeing Resources in the Chicago Suburbs




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