Where to go boating with the family near Champaign-Urbana

By on May 12, 2022 0

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

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

Summer is coming and it’s time to get in the water! When you want to have fun, you can play with garden hoses, sprinklers and kiddie pools to get your water fix. But, especially if you have older children or teenagers, you might want to put on a life jacket and try something new.

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

The Lake House at Crystal Lake Park, Urbana

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

May – Saturday and Sunday, noon – 7 p.m. (plus Memorial Day)
June 2 – August 14 – Thursday-Sunday, 12-7 p.m. (plus Independence Day)
August 20 – September 4 – Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. (plus Labor Day)

To follow this facebook page for boat rental updates at Crystal Lake Park.

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

Lake of the Woods, Muhammad

Paddle boat, kayak, and rowboat rentals are available from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The hours are noon to 7 p.m., 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 remodeled and is now Champaign County’s first ADA accessible boat launch.

Visit the Champaign County Forest Reserve District website for more information on Lake of the Woods boat rentals.

Paddle around Lake of the Woods
Pedal boats at Lake of the Woods.

Kickapoo State Park, Oakwood

Tubes, canoes, kayaks and paddle boards are all available for hire 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 National 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, paddle boats and paddle boards and you can even get an annual family pass for the rental. This park also has an accessible boat ramp for kayaks. There is also a restaurant that you can enjoy during your stay.

Kayak rental at Moraine View.

Shelbyville Lake

Looking for a slightly bigger boat (like a pontoon boat) for your time on the water? We guide you through the process of renting a boat from Lithia Springs Marina at Lake Shelbyville. Tip for families: Rates are significantly cheaper on weekdays than on weekends, so if you can take a Tuesday or Wednesday off for your sailing day, you’ll save big. Pontoon boats can accommodate up to 12 people and party boats can hold up to 25. These boats tend to book up quickly in hot weather; it is better to look ahead and plan your boat trip in advance.

lithia springs marina
Lithia Springs Marina at Lake Shelbyville.

Clinton Lake

Do you want to rent a pontoon boat? Plan your departure in advance Barefoot Cove Marina. It’s definitely not cheap but it looks great 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 Lake Clinton.

Turkey Run State Park, Marshall, Ind.

Certainly one of the most scenic landscapes you can roam in our region, Turkey Run State Park near Marshall, Indiana is a favorite spot for all kinds of outdoor recreation. There are a number of canoe liveries that serve Turkey Run; browse the options here on its website. We heard good things about several of them and tried Sugar Creek Canoe Rentals and Campground ourselves.

Sugar Creek at Turkey Run State Park.

Other ideas

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

And while we’re talking gear rentals, you can rent camping gear (but not boats) at Champagne outsidealso.

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