Paddling the Chicago River with Urban Kayaks
By Nicole Weddington
I had always associated kayaking with whitewater rapids and nature, but when I looked out the window of the bus one day and saw kayakers paddling down the Chicago River, I knew it could be more leisurely than that, and I had to knock it off of my Chicago bucket list.
Brothers Aaron and Asher Gershenzon and partner James Morro, all of them ski instructors in Colorado during the winter, started Urban Kayaks in their hometown two years ago in an effort to keep their adventurous lifestyles going through the calendar year.
My best friend and I decided to try the historic guided tour, and we chose the tandem kayak so that I could take pictures. Lead tour guide Aaron Gershenzon was charming and funny as he explained the history of Chicago on the two-hour tour that traveled from Navy Pier to Wolf Point, the cleanest part of the river. A sense of camaraderie was formed between the eight boats in our fleet as we held on to each other’s kayaks during explanations of Chicago’s most beautiful structures like the Merchandise Mart and Wrigley building.
Words can’t explain the view of the city from the middle of the river. The reflection of the sun off the water, the light waves from other boats and relatively warm water made for an extremely peaceful activity.
“My favorite part of our tour is not so much a specific part, but rather a specific time. Five nights a week we offer a sunset paddle. After 7 p.m., most of the large tour boats have closed down for the day, and there is little to no traffic on the water. It is an amazing time. We are paddling through downtown Chicago, and yet it feels as if we have the entire city to ourselves.”
I would definitely recommend Urban Kayaks for a fun outdoor activity for locals and tourists alike. The affordable tours are a great workout and unique way to see our great city — and maybe even learn a little something along the way.