Have Fun and Inspire Action as a Volunteer Canoe Guide

Introducing people to the beauty and wildlife of the river system is critical to our mission and there is no more immersive experience than paddling on river. You can help share the joy of paddling the river system by becoming a volunteer canoe guide. Many first-time paddlers become longtime river advocates after seeing turtles, birds, mink and other wildlife that live in and along the river system.

Canoe guides help guests understand the river’s vital place in our history as well as its role as an important natural resource for our future. Volunteer canoe guides are critical to making these impactful experiences happen.

Submit an application and return it before our first training date February 10. You can also learn more on our website about volunteer opportunities with our Chicago River Eco-Warriors (CREW) program, or follow CREW on Facebook.

“Our amazing volunteer canoe guides and boat haulers make our fun and educational canoe program possible,” said Friends’ Volunteer, Events, and Canoe Program Manager Annette Anderson. “Our guides introduce people to the natural wonders of the river and to stewardship events like paddle and plants, and canoe and cleans. They play a critical role in carrying out our mission by creating equitable opportunities for people to connect to the river; fostering ways we can work together to make long-term, positive changes to protect it.”

The 2024 canoe season starts in the spring and runs through October. Friends takes out beginner and experienced paddlers throughout the river system hosting educational field trips for schools, birding trips or volunteers who immediately improve river health by cleaning up litter and planting native aquatic plants to reduce erosion, and improve water quality. Some paddles are focused simply on enjoying the river’s natural beauty like our signature Moonlight Paddles. Last year, 65 volunteer canoe guides supported nearly 40 on the water events.

Friends is also available for private trips for groups of 10 or more at a variety of locations along the Chicago River system. No experience is necessary to paddle — our fun, knowledgeable guides provide safety and paddling instruction plus all of the necessary equipment. To schedule an event contact Annette Anderson at aanderson@chicagoriver.org.