Covering the Land of Lincoln

Where to Go Boating with Your Family Near Champaign-Urbana

Find out where to rent canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and pontoons this summer near Champaign-Urbana

Find a wide variety of family-friendly outdoor recreation (on the water!) a short drive from Champaign-Urbana

Summer is coming and it is time to take to the water! When you want to have some fun, you can play with backyard hoses, sprinklers and kiddie pools to get your water fix. But — especially if you have older children or teens — you might want to strap on a life jacket and try something new.

Before you scoff at our suggestion, there are actually more places to go boating in Central Illinois — yes, CENTRAL ILLINOIS AND BOATING — than you might imagine. All of these locations are within a 90-minute drive of Champaign-Urbana.

The Lake House in Crystal Lake Park, Urbana

The Lake House in Crystal Lake Park (operated by the Urbana Park District) will offer boat rentals again in 2022. And this year, the Lake House is starting early in May! Rent a paddle boat, canoe or row boat on the lake. Boat rentals range from $8 for a half hour to $14 an hour. Credit cards accepted. If the weather is questionable, call (217) 328-1069 to see if it is open.

may – Saturday and Sunday, noon – 7 pm (plus Memorial Day)
Jun 2 – Aug 14 – Thursday through Sunday, noon – 7 pm (plus Independence Day)
Aug 20 – Sept 4 – Saturday and Sunday, noon – 7 pm (plus Labor Day)

Follow this Facebook page for Crystal Lake Park boat rental updates.

The dock with the paddle boats and rowboats at Crystal Lake in Urbana.

Lake of the Woods, Mahomet

Rentals of pedal boats, kayaks and rowboats are available Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend. Hours are noon-7 pm, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, and the cost is $6 per half-hour. The boat peninsula is located at 101 N. Lake of the Woods Road, at the intersection of Tin Cup Road and Lake of the Woods Road. It was recently renovated and is now Champaign County’s first ADA accessible boat launch.

Visit the Champaign County Forest Preserve District website for more info on boat rentals at Lake of the Woods.

Paddle Around Lake of the WoodsPaddle boats at Lake of the Woods.

Kickapoo State Park, Oakwood

Tubes, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are all available for rental from Kickapoo Adventures. You can venture down the river or just paddle around a lake or two, if you wish.

Tube — or kayak, or canoe — at Kickapoo State Park.

Moraine View State Recreation Area, LeRoy

This state park is a little-known gem, located just north of LeRoy (about 40 minutes northwest of CU). Moraine View Restaurant and Kayak Rental rents canoes, kayaks, paddleboats and paddleboards and you can even get an annual family pass for rentals. This park also features an accessible kayak launch. There’s also a restaurant you can enjoy while you’re there.

Kayak rental at Moraine View.

Lake Shelbyville

Looking for a bit of a bigger boat (like a pontoon boat) for your time on the water? We walk you through the process of renting a boat at Lithia Springs Marina at Lake Shelbyville. Tip for families: Rates are significantly cheaper on weekdays versus weekends, so if you can swing taking a Tuesday or Wednesday off work to have your boating day, you’ll save big. Pontoon boats can accommodate up to 12 people and party barges can hold up to 25. These boats tend to book quickly in the warm weather; it is best to look ahead and plan your boating trip ahead of time.

marina at lithia springsLithia Springs Marina at Lake Shelbyville.

Clinton Lake

Want to rent a pontoon boat? Make plans in advance to head out to Barefoot Cove Marina. It’s certainly not cheap but looks like a lot of fun! Rates available for a full day or half day. Clinton Lake is also popular with sailors, and there are sailing lessons available.

Boaters at Clinton Lake.

Turkey Run State Park, Marshall (Ind.)

Certainly some of the most picturesque scenery you can float through in our area, Turkey Run State Park near Marshall, Ind., is a favorite for all kinds of outdoor recreation. There are a number of canoe liveries that serve Turkey Run; peruse the options here on its website. We have heard great things about several of them and have tried out Sugar Creek Canoe Rentals and Campground ourselves.

Sugar Creek at Turkey Run State Park.

Other Ideas

If you want to rent boats locally (before heading to the water), canoes and kayaks are available via Campus Recreation at the University of Illinois. You can also rent camping gear and other outdoor items through the link; membership not required.

And while we’re on the topic of renting gear, you can rent camping gear (but not boats) at Champaign Outdoors, too.

More on all your favorite outdoor activities:

Top spots for outdoor recreation near Champaign-Urbana:

Get ready for summer in Champaign-Urbana:

Click here for everything summer

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