As an occasional winter kayaker, I'm always looking for lakes and rivers in the Chicago area that don't freeze over too soon. Two nearby winter venues tend to ice over early. Skokie Lagoons can freeze up in November or December, and Lake Michigan commonly builds a high icy shelf along the Evanston beaches when temperatures plummet in January and February. So, I recently checked out the North Branch of the Chicago River.

My wife and I have paddled the Main Branch of the Chicago River a number of times, including through the grand canyon of skyscrapers in the Loop. The heart of Chicago as seen from the river is like no other. But I was interested in the North Branch for two reasons. First, I wanted to find a bucolic stream close by, and second, I wanted to see the forests and trails we've biked, hiked and skied for many years but from the perspective of the river. Besides, I had never paddled the North Branch because Lake Michigan and Skokie Lagoons were always so much more convenient.

When I was looking for a place to launch on the North Branch, I contacted Jack Snarr, a veteran Midwest paddler, treasurer of the Illinois Paddling Council and chairperson of the Des Plaines River Marathon. He'd done the North Branch dozens of times.

Read the entirety of Bob McCray's story about paddling the North Branch of the Chicago River in the April 2013 print edition of Silent Sports magazine. To order a copy, call 715/369-3331. To avoid missing future issues, subscribe by calling 888/706-4045.