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Old October 22nd, 2008, 05:50 PM   #1
Steely Dan
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The REAL chicago river........ or "i think i'm officially addicted to kayaking"

So I had a party to attend at a co-workers house up on the northwest side last night. Being that I live on the river, and the fact that my co-worker lives real close to the river as well, I decided that kayaking the 11 miles up to her house made the most sense. So I set off around noon for a 5 and a half hour adventure paddling upstream along the Chicago river from downtown all the way up to kostner/foster. Most people think of the Chicago river exclusively in terms of the magnificent skyscraper canyons of downtown, but the river is a whole lot more than just that, with very interesting industrial, residential and eventually even natural feels as it progresses north through the city. The purpose of this tour is to expose some of the lesser seen parts of the river, but of course I have to include some obligatory shots of the canyons of downtown.


1. Unloading my gear at the put-in by LSD

2. Pulling all the kayak parts out of the backpack

3. The frame goes together

4. What a fantastic put-in

5. Aqua

6. Trump

7. Another angle

8. A nice collection of classics

9. Home

10. River bridges

11. River skyscrapers

12. Large and in charge

13. Now we reach wolf point, the nexus of the 3 chicago river branches. the south branch veers off to the left, but weíre curving around the bend to the right to head up the north branch

14. Turning around and looking back down the main branch

15. The south branch canyon. Weíll revisit it on another tour

16. The kinzie street railroad bridge. This bridge is so low to the water that it is always kept in the open position.

17. The operatorís house

18. Sarah palinís bridge to nowhere?

19. Rickety pier connecting bridge protection pilings

20. Harry weeseís funky little river cottages

21. The atrocious east bank club with the better than average park kingbury condo tower in the background

22. Riverfront townhouse with a below average condo tower

23. The cool little cottage like bridge house for the grand avenue bridge

24. Old warehouse converted to condos

25. The large printing press building for the Chicago tribune is dead ahead. It marks the point where the river starts to feel less ďskyscraperyĒ and more industrial.

26. More newish condos

27. These two make quite a lovely pair

28. Newish riverfront park with yet more condo towers

29. The Chicago avbenue bridge up ahead

30. The magnificent old montgomery wards warehouse. Itís been turned into a massive mixed-use facility

31. Looking back at wards

32. Now weíre at goose island where the north branch starts to show its industrial heritage. Weíre now entering a part of the river that you wonít see on most of the architectural river tour boats.

33. Industry

34. Ditto

35. A handsome old warehouse building since converted to offices.

36. Turning around we are treated to a nice skyline perspective

37. Summer is officially over

38. Approaching division street bridge

39. Mighty sears always watching over his city

40. More industrial structures

41. The new cable stayed north avenue bridge. The river gets really wide at this point to act as a turning basin for the large barges that still navigate this narrow river.

42. A cool old defunct railroad bridge

43. Brand new SoNo tower. He looks lonely. He needs some friends.

44. Industry is cool

45. Itís really friggin cool

46. Turning around, thereís trump tower in the distance

47. Mountains of scrap metal stacked up along the river bank

48. The courtland street bridge is so cute. Itís like a little shrunk down version of itís bigger brothers downtown.

49. A skyline of smokestacks

50. The union pacific north line railroad bridge. I wanted to catch a picture of a metra train crossing it, but they only run every 2 hours on weekends, and I still had 6 more miles to paddle

51. A general scene in this section of the river

52. The fullerton avenue bridge. This used to be the first non-movable bridge on the north branch, meaning that north of here was off limits to taller commercial vessels and sailboats, but the new cable stayed bridge back at north avenue is now the first non-movable bridge on the north branch

53. The nice red arches of the damen bridge

54. The river opens up real wide again just south of the diversy bridge

55. These really old Chicago public housing projects occupy what is now prime riverfront property.

56. Newish condo development north of diversy

57. General river scene. Itís beginning to look a bit more natural with tree lined banks instead of 10 foot high steel revetment walls.

58. New condos under construction at Belmont

59. A nice townhouse development with a huge pier. Why arenít the people who live here out paddling? It makes no sense.

60. An electrical substation just south of Addison

61. The Addison bridge

62. This was a cool old shipwreck on the river bank north of Addison that caught my eye. I wish I had caught a close up of the engine. It was old, OLD school. I have no idea how long this thing has been rotting away here.

63. Gordon tech high school just north of Addison

64. Nice fall colors starting to come through

65. Good to know. Iíll keep it under advisement

66. But I guess the water ainít too polluted for the ducks

67. Now the river takes on a decidedly residential feel with city house lots backing right up onto the river banks with docks for recreational boats

68. More homes backing up to the river.

69. This looks like a perfect deck for millertime

70. The bungalow belt

71. The builder of this home had the good sense to allow it to face the river

72. Ohhh, thereís even a 2-flat or two in the mix here and there. Cool.

73. A brown line el train crosses the river

74. The Lawrence avenue aerator. From what I understand this thing aerates the water in the river so all of our little aqua friends can breathe. There are danger signs to stay away because apparently when itís on the aerated water it puts out is so unbouyant that boats can sink like a rock in it.

75. The north branch dam and waterfall. The waterway to the right is the north shore channel which eventually ends up in Wilmette by the bahai temple. But Iím not going the way, Iím heading up the north branch so I have to portage around the dam for the final two miles of my paddle

76. Upriver of the dam, the river is decidedly smaller, shallower, cleaner, and much faster running. I wish I had more pics of this stretch, but the speed of the water that I was paddling against was so quick that I did not have any time to snap shots, I did get a couple though. This stretch of the river was also littered with small shallow rocky rapids that I could not get through, so there was A LOT of getting out of the boat and dragging it through the water. This stretch of the river was cool to see, but I canít say that I would recommend it for paddling, itís just too shallow with to many unavigable rapids.

77. Strange architecture cantilevered over the river just west of the kedzie bridge.

78. More unusual architecture. I donít know what complex these buildings are a part of, but they were cool to see from the vanatage point of a river explorer who just happened upon them out of the blue.

79. Von stueben high school

80. And now entering into cook county forest preserve land, the last stretch of my paddle looked mostly like this.

Well, thatís it. I hope you enjoyed going on my little river adventure with me. Of course, when I finally got to my co-workerís party with my kayak, every one pretty much came to the conclusion that Iím nuts, but i'm not crazy, i just really, REALLY like kayaking.
"I wish they'd hurry up and just destroy humanity already........... it's the waiting that I can't stand" - Philip J. Fry
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 06:15 PM   #2
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Awesome, photo 20 wont show and I am dying to see it!
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 06:27 PM   #3
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Wonderful, insightful photo tour, really enjoyed it.
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 06:35 PM   #4
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Great! I don't think it's nuts, looks like you had a really nice trip.. =)
I want to see some construction!
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 07:19 PM   #5
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Nice thread - thanks for the pics
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Old October 23rd, 2008, 05:48 AM   #6
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love this
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Old October 23rd, 2008, 08:59 PM   #7
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Love the North Avenue Bridge pic!!!

Last edited by urban_addict; October 23rd, 2008 at 09:01 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old October 24th, 2008, 09:31 AM   #8
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Gorgeous thread! Looks like a fun thing to do.
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Yes, for ****'s sake, all pictures I post were TAKEN BY ME
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Old October 25th, 2008, 04:34 AM   #9
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What an amazing tour!!!

But I wouldn't dare to do it.
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Old October 25th, 2008, 04:38 AM   #10
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Great tour!
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Old October 25th, 2008, 08:37 PM   #11
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That was awesome!
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Old October 29th, 2008, 04:33 AM   #12
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That was the coolest tour of Chicago ever! Thanks Steely. I'd always wondered where those canals went once they left the loop. Can you rent kayaks anywhere downtown because it looks like a pretty smooth paddle.
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