The Fox River from Algonquin to Elgin is lined by parks and forest preserves. At some points you can’t believe you are in the Chicago suburbs it is so peaceful. South of the Algonquin dam to the I90 bridge, these are the parks to gain access to the water.
Starting out just south of the Algonquin dam on the west side of the river is the Village of Algonquin’s Cornish Park and further south Buffalo Park a Kane Country Forest Preserve park. Last summer we paddled from Buffalo Park to the Fox River Shores Forest Preserve.
From Buffalo Park to the Fox River Shores you pass the Brunner Family Forest Preserve which just received a grant for improvements that includes “600 feet of shoreline enhancements” which hopefully includes a launch area. You will see cranes and other wildlife along this stretch of the river. During last summers drought (2012) there were a few areas that were so shallow that the fin on my board hit the bottom of the riverbed. I had to walk off the board and move the board to a deeper spot. This is a very good reason to wear water shoes when paddle boarding. If you make a stop off or end your trip at the Fox River Shores Forest Preserve on the east side of the river, you will have a great place to take a break. This park has a rest room, shelter, picnic tables and ample parking.
After the Fox River Shores you will approch the Carpentersville Dam. There is a park on the west side of the river with ample parking and a launch area. I would not recommend portaging on the west side of the dam. Too much junk in the inlet there. (I will update this post after checking out the area on the east side of the dam.) It may be best to start off at this point than try to portage around this dam.
On the east side in Carpentersville is the Otto Engineering park. This is a privately owned park which allows public use. There is plenty of parking here and a launch area. One may have to kneel on their board to get under the Otto bridge, especially very tall people and when the water levels are high.
In West Dundee on the west banks of the river is South End Park. Here is another nice park for a break where you have a canoe/SUP launch, picnic area, gazebo, restrooms and parking. The next stopoff would be Voyagers Landing. When going down the river you have to arrange dropping off your gear at the upstream park, leaving someone to watch over it, then have others drive to the downstream park to leave your vehicles there and carpool everyone back to the upstream location to start paddling. Or you could ask a non paddler drive to the downsteam location for the pickup. If you don’t want to go through this hassle, when you go paddling on the river you first paddle upstream, because you will be so exhausted paddling upstream you will need to take the easy way down with the current to get back to your vehicle.
Rick and I have paddled upstream a few times and it takes 3-4 times as long to paddle upstream than the same distance downstream. The current around the bridges is very swift and is very difficult to impossible to get through going upstream. That’s the time to turn around for me. So if you are interested in paddling down the Fox River with a group, check out our Meet Up page for upcoming journeys.
Here are the addresses for the parks mentioned above:
Cornish Park, 101 South Harrison Street, Algonquin IL
Buffalo Park, 1 Alan Drive (east side of Route 31/Main St), Algonquin IL
Brunner Family Forest Preserve, NOT OPEN YET
Fox River Shores Forest Preserve Carpentersville at 701 N. Williams Rd
Carpentersville Dam Park, North Lincoln Ave, Carpentersville, IL
Otto Engineering, 2 E Main St, Carpentersville, IL
South End Park, S. First St., West Dundee IL
Voyagers Landing, 50 Airport Rd, Elgin, IL