Friends Grows River Stewardship, One Plant and Paddle at a Time

Half way through our 2023 Paddle and Plant season, Friends of the Chicago River is well on its way to planting over 3,000 native species of aquatic plants to strengthen the Chicago-Calumet River biome. Friends’ Paddle and Plants are an energizing way for volunteers to get on the water, enjoy community, flex your water-stewardship, and all while gaining direct, hands-on experience working to enhance Chicago River ecology.

Friends’ Paddle and Plants are canoeing excursions with a purpose: to plant lizard’s tail  (Saururus cernuus), bulsrush (Bolboschoenus fluviatilis), and other native aquatic plants in along the Chicago-Calumet River system. Not only do these plants provide food and habitat for river animals like beavers, they also help stabilize riverbanks, mitigating the detrimental impacts of soil erosion.

The Chicago-Calumet River system meanders through natural corridors and elsewhere it abuts against concrete and steel. The highly utilized urban waterway, a site of recreation, commercial shipping, and natural habitat, requires conscientious investment—not only financial investment, but also investment in natural solutions targeting long-term, green futures for wildlife and people. Planting native species, and specifically those that support healthy river ecosystems, is a vital means of investing in the health and vitality of the Chicago-Calumet watershed.

After establishing the program through a grant from the Chi-Cal Rivers Fund, in 2018, Friends joined forces with the Shedd Aquarium and together we have expanded our reach to the Little Calumet River. The summer-long season of Paddle and Plants is well underway, although there is still plenty of time to hop aboard and make a difference.

Interested participants may join Friends’ Volunteer and Canoe Programs Manager, Annette Anderson, on the North Shore Channel July 18 and 19 and August 8 and 9 in Skokie, and August 1 at Kickapoo Woods. Registration for all paddle and plants is available here. Signing up for Friends’ Volunteer mailing list is also a great way to stay informed on Paddle and Plant outings, as well as other special events hosted by Friends.