All participants MUST sign a waiver of liability before beginning any activities at Wateriders. You must be 18 years or older in order to legally sign. Guests under 18 must have a legal guardian over the age of 18 present to sign the waiver form for them. We reserve the right to ask for ID, no matter how old the individual in question looks.
All guests must wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times when on the floating dock or in one of our kayaks. Removal of one’s PFD at any time will immediately incur a $50 surcharge and removal from the water.
All participants must witness and understand a complete basic Paddle Lesson and our river Safety Orientation before getting into any boat. These instructions have been tailored to fit the needs of paddlers navigating this stretch of the Chicago River. The Paddling Lesson and Safety Orientation are two separate modules, and guests may observe them in any order. Failure to follow the clearly established rules and guidelines may put paddlers in danger, as well as other boaters on the river. Negligent use of our boats could put you at risk of a fine, as according to 46 USC §2302(a):
“A person operating a vessel in a negligent manner or interfering with the safe operation of a vessel, so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of a person is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 in the case of a recreational vessel, or $25,000 in the case of any other vessel.”
In the case that there is a language barrier that may impede one’s ability to fully understand the content of the Safety Orientation and Paddling Lesson, we may need to allot extra time to ensure comprehension, or send a guide along with the party. This is a safety precaution, as the Chicago River is a very busy commercial waterway. Sending a guide will likely come with an additional cost. We will try our best to communicate the necessary information, but we do not have staff who can speak every language fluently enough to make this possible for everyone.
We reserve the right to remove any guest from one of our tours or hourly rentals if we observe them acting in a way that is detrimental to the safety or experience of themselves, other guests, pedestrians, or other users of the river.
All participants renting our kayaks by the hour must pass a competency test in order to be allowed to travel unsupervised on the river. This is both for your own safety as well as the safe passage of all other vessels using the waterway. The passing or failing of this test is subject to the discretion of the instructor or guide present. Competent, safe operation of a kayak is of the utmost importance to us, the other boats on the river, and our fellow members of the Chicago Harbor Safety Committee.
“Competency”, to the extent necessary to safely kayak on the Chicago River, can be described as being able to: stop one’s boat; paddle in a straight line; turn left and right on command (with a forward and/or backward stroke); stay in the “kayak lane”; cross the river at appropriate times and in appropriate locations; and not act ignorantly or recklessly.
All boats must have at least one person 16 years of age or older. To take a single kayak, you must be 16. In a double, at least one of the participants must be 16. We can make exceptions to this rule on guided tours, provided the individual in question is able to display proficiency in a kayak. We suggest showing up early for your tour so we can properly assess their paddling skills.
Parties with more individuals under the age of 16 than adults over the age of 16 should call first to check to make sure that their arrangement will work.
Children too small to paddle can sit in the middle of a double kayak between two adults, at no additional charge.
Guests are not permitted to go through the Chicago Locks (onto Lake Michigan) during a rental. A $50 surcharge will be incurred for this infraction. The lake is heavily trafficked, and we do not equip our boats for operation on the lake.
Guests are not permitted to exit the boat at any point along the river other than our dock, under the direct supervision of a guide or other employee. This includes, but is not limited to, City Winery or any other riverwalk location, Marina City, other docks, ladders on the wall, construction barges, the banks of the river, etc. Only in circumstances of a true emergency is one allowed to get out of the boat elsewhere. Evidence that one has violated this rule will incur a $50 surcharge.
No alcohol (or illicit drugs) is allowed on the boats. Visibly inebriated people will not be allowed to rent a boat; right to a refund will be rescinded. This is a serious safety hazard that we do not tolerate. Please note that any evidence of alcohol in a boat upon return will incur a $100 surcharge per guest on the reservation of the offending party.
Equipment / Belongings:
Abuse, destruction, and loss of our equipment due to misuse or gross negligence will incur a surcharge on your bill equal to that of the affected equipment. This applies to both the basic necessary equipment for the activity that we provide, (kayaks, paddles, PFDs, booster seats, etc), as well as other add-on items including, but not limited to, GoPros and camera equipment. Incidental damage happens, and will not be subject to surcharge.
We cannot guarantee a double or single kayak in advance. We will try our best to accommodate preference, but paddlers may be assigned a boat based on the needs of the group, capacity, skill level, or availability.
We are not responsible for any lost or damaged personal belongings. We will make our best efforts to return items left with us (such as IDs, clothing, backpacks, phones, etc). We provide free zip-loc bags, but these are not fully waterproof, do not reliably float, and are ultimately an imperfect solution. Use extreme caution when bringing your valuables onto the water.
We allow individuals to use our dock for their personal kayaks. The cost is $5 per boat to launch, and $5 per boat to pull out ($10 both ways). This applies to launching and returning during rental hours. We will not launch private boats after sunset.
We reserve the right to refuse to launch any watercraft. We will not launch SUPs or canoes, however, we will let them pull out at our dock.
If a guest wants to bring their own kayak for a guided tour, they can receive a 50% rebate of their ticket at the door, upon request.
Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) brought by guests must be approved by the United States Coast Guard for the weight of the paddler. We will not allow any inflatable PFDs.
We ask all guests who choose to rent by the hour to leave either an ID or credit card with us as collateral while they are using the kayaks.
All rentals have a minimum charge of one hour. After the first hour, all hourly rentals are billed for $5 per person per 15 minutes. Guests who request to continue paddling after their tour will be charged the same $5 per person per 15 minute rate.
Due to the non-exact nature of the timing of rentals, all guests are credited with one 14 minute “grace period” after the first hour during which we do not charge for the additional time. This is calculated by rounding down to the last 15-minute “block” that was used. For example, from the recorded time that the guest left the dock, 1 hour and 10 minutes (70 minutes) would be rounded down and charged for 1 hour (60 minutes), while 1 hour and 20 minutes (80 minutes) would be rounded down and charged for 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes).
We do not rent boats out after dark, or during sunset. All participants paddling at these times must be accompanied by a guide. We are not allowed to rent the boats out at this time, as there are significantly more dangers associated with the activity at night.
If a guest renting a kayak by the hour requires a guide to stay with them for the entirety of their time on the water, there will be a $20 surcharge added to their bill for the first 45-60 minutes and an additional $5 added per 15 minutes after that. Whether or not a guest requires a guide to be able to safely paddle on the river is at the sole discretion of the guide.
Failing to have boats back by the posted closing time will incur a $1/min surcharge.
This section refers to non-cancellation based refunds. For information about cancellation-based refunds, see our Cancellation Policy.
If we determine that an individual is unable to safely kayak on the river, they are entitled to a refund, so long as they were not inebriated, and did not leave the “initial paddling area”, which is defined as the area between the Kinzie Street and Ohio Street Bridges, plus the area along the west wall of Wolf Point, between Kinzie Street and Lake Street. There is a $10 surcharge if the individual is on the water for more than 30 minutes.
Guests who volunteer to get off the water within 10 minutes of getting into their boat due to fear, anxiety, sickness, or other similar reason are entitled to a full refund.
If we do not allow an individual with a reservation to get into a kayak for any reason (except for inebriation or mistreatment of other guests), they are entitled to a refund.
If an individual or party had an issue with someone on our staff, or otherwise had a negative experience that was the direct result of our actions, please contact management via email with the relevant details. We consider full and partial refunds in these instances on a case-by-case basis.