Founded in 1997, Wateriders created the first Chicago River kayaking tour. Since then, we have led tens of thousands of adventurous people from all over the globe on recreational kayak tours that reveal the history and magnificent architecture of our great city.
We take great pride in providing access to this great city resource, and it has been incredibly exciting watching both the quality of the water and the attitude toward the river improve drastically over the years – right in front of our eyes (and under our boats)!
Our tours give you an unforgettable adventure from the peaceful platform of a kayak while paddling through the steel and concrete canyons in the heart of downtown Chicago. Our top priority is offering our guests a safe, fun and unique adventure on the Chicago River, led by experienced, knowledgeable and professional guides. There is nothing quite like seeing the faces of people returning from their trip who have just experienced the splendor of downtown Chicago from one of our boats. With the newly minted expansion of the riverwalk, the scene is only getting better!
Our motto is “Good Green Fun”, which has deep meaning for Charlie Portis, founder and owner of Wateriders. A commercial real estate broker and developer, he started the company for fun 20 years ago to share his love of boats (and camp) with other Chicagoans. This was a few years after he truly fell in love with the sport on a major kayaking excursion in 1994 – a trip to Alaska with a newly purchased sail kayak that he had obtained in North Carolina.
He began by writing our “Classic” Architectural Tour, driving a trailer out to the East Coast to buy boats and paddles, and originally operated out of a shipping container near Goose Island. Soon after, he wrote and added our “Shady Chicago” Gangster Tour, began taking paddlers to see the fireworks at Navy Pier on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and offering boat rentals.
Now a husband and father of two spectacular children, Charlie is a regular feature on the Chicago River, Lake Michigan and some really nice kayaking locations in the Florida Keys (during the Winter). He is humbled by the sheer number of people who have now been able to share this experience. He is also delighted to see the newfound attention and being paid to the river, which for years was polluted, neglected, and quite frankly, considered toxic (not anymore – it is considered safe enough to swim in now, albeit illegal) .
After over 10 years operating from the River North Marina behind the historic Montgomery Ward Catalog House, we have relocated to an even more incredible location – the Riverwalk behind the world-renowned East Bank Club! This location is very exciting to us, as it is ideal for a downtown Chicago kayaking experience. We launch as close as is possible to Wolf Point – the visually stunning confluence of the three branches of the Chicago River. This means our guests are not only immediately treated to the best (land-based) view of the city – they are only minutes from the primary stretch of the Main Stem and have the option to explore any (or all) of the possible routes. We really aren’t kidding about the view – ask the countless wedding photographers who stage hundreds of photo shoots from the Kinzie Street bridge every year, right above our dock.
We really hope you will get a chance to join us sometime as we spend our summers down by the river, enjoying the sun, the company of our guests, the endless parade of dogs and puppies the locals walk past our dock, and the nicest open plan office in the city!
WayneHFranklin: We are definitely going to be doing this again, especially when we have people visiting Chicago. Great job guys...
Laurie H: We had a blast, and Wateriders, we will most definitely return on our next trip to your incredible town. Thank you!...
Patty1901: This is an excellent way to see the City. Outstanding and very accommodating staff. Wateriders you are wonderful!...
Nahed S: Overall it was something I d love to do again. Thank you Wateriders for making this a fun adventure...