Illinois Water TrailKeepers


Program Description

Illinois Water TrailKeepers (WTK) is a joint program of the Illinois Paddling Council (IPC) and Openlands,  TrailKeepers is a corps of volunteer stewards for designated water trails in Illinois.

Illinois Water TrailKeepers monitor and maintain seven water trails in 12 counties in Illinois totaling nearly 410 river miles.

These are the currently adopted Water Trails:

  • North Branch of the Chicago River
  • Little Calumet River
  • Salt Creek
  • Des Plaines River
  • Fox River 
  • DuPage River (including the West Branch and East Branch)
  • Kishwaukee River
  • Sangamon River

To be available for adoption, a body of water must have legal access recognized by the local authorities.

TrailKeeper Stewards

See a list of Water trail Reaches and Stewards

Volunteer to be a Reach Steward

click here to report a water trail problem

“Reach Stewards” take responsibility for a reach of an adopted water trail. Reach Stewards monitor and report on trail conditions. They maintain the trail by conducting on-the-water, bank and site clean-up. Reach Stewards may also advocate for the development and improvement of their reach and the water trail. Reach Stewards may recruit and coordinate the work of Reach and Trail Volunteers and other individuals and groups on their reach.

A Trail Steward takes responsibility for an entire water trail. The Trail Steward manages the Reach Stewards and coordinates their work. The Trail Steward also coordinates the removal of larger obstructions and human hazards with the local authorities.  Trail Stewards are empowered to build their organization based on the needs of their water trail.

The work of the Trail Stewards is coordinated by Program Manager Tom Eckels who is also a Reach Steward on the Upper Des Plaines River Water Trail.

The Illinois Paddling Council and Openlands would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Grand Victoria Foundation which funded the development of this program through a grant to Openlands.

Cleanup Corner

Cleanup Corner is a work in progress.  Moving Forward, Cleanup Corner will be a resource where people can promote their cleanup efforts, before and after the events.  Send information of upcoming cleanups or Cleanup Trip Reports to Tom Eckels

Additional Information and Resources

Water TrailKeeper Sponsors And Partners

REI.comIllinois Environmental Protection Agency




Midwest Paddlesport Adventures, LLC


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