(Cook County, Illinois)
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When boating, regardless of water depth, wear a PFD!
Fish in the lagoon include:
The Skokie Lagoons are the result of a flood control project done by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. It's somewhat ironic that a Democratic President has cursed the largely Republican area with a huge mosquito population.
Located south of Lake-Cook Road, North of Willow Road, East of the Edens Expressway, and west of Forest Road in Skokie. Ample free parking is available
We don't have a depth map for the lagoons (see the links at the left for a forest preserve district map), but we do have this 1996 report from a correspondent:
I did a quick circle tour of the lagoons via the bike path on Saturday. Fishing is back. I encountered a guy carrying a spin-casting rig on the bike path as the first sign.
I also saw a couple of kayaks, an inflatable, and a rowboat out on the waters. The water was very slow-moving and covered with cottonwood seeds. The boat ramp is located on the south side of Tower Road, just east of the Edens. It is new within the past five years, and I think the concrete extends below the water line. Near the boat ramp, there was a sign posted by the CCFPD warning that the water had been treated with two aquatic herbicides (Diquat and something else) on June 19, 1996 to improve shore fishing conditions. The notice said not to eat the fish or drink the water until July 4, 1996. Personally, I plan to never drink the water from the Skokie Lagoons, and I can pass on the fish, too. People were fishing.
The lagoons have undergone a multi-year "restoration" project to improve the quality of recreation. This involved dredging, building a new boat ramp, and poisoning all the existing fish (mainly carp, I guess) so new game fish could be introduced. This project involved a certain amount of inconvenience. North of Tower Road, the bike path on the west side of the lagoons remains officially closed, although the path has been completely paved for over a year. There are no obstacles to riding on this side. The path does go by a large mound created a few years ago to hold the sludge they dredged out of the lagoons. Perhaps the mound is not quite stable yet. (The mound is posted with "keep off" signs warning about unstable soil, but it looks pretty solid.) There were some previous attempts to block the west side path, such as gates and plastic construction fencing, but these were quickly demolished. The FPD seems to have given up now. Perhaps someday they will finally reopen the path officially. [The path has long since reopened.]
The bike path on the east side of the lagoons between Tower and Dundee continues to be open, but there's a lot of foot traffic with people crossing between their cars and the picnic areas. The west side path (being closed) is much more lightly travelled.
Access to the boat ramp is off of Tower Road. From the north, exit the Edens at Tower Road, then west on Tower. From the south, exit the Edens at Willow Road westbound, then turn right at the first light on Frontage Road, and take Frontage to Tower. The ramp entrance is the first right after you cross the Edens on Tower. There is also a parking area on Willow, just east of the Edens. From the north, you would exit at Tower, and follow Frontage Road down to Willow. The Edens is the western boundary, and Forest Way Drive is the eastern boundary. You can park on the west side of Forest Way at several side-of-the-road spots. The water is pretty close at some spots, but I think you'd be better off fishing than trying to launch a boat on this side.
The bike path runs all the way down into the city through the forest preserves. From Willow, it runs on the west side of the lagoons up to Tower. From Tower, the path officially switches to the east side, although you can be an outlaw [not anymore; both sides are open again] and ride the west side as mentioned above.
North of Dundee Rd., the path runs through the Chicago Botanic Gardens, which is open until sunset, at which time they close the gates. This takes you up to Lake-Cook Road, where the path fizzles out. If you take Lake-Cook east about 3/4 of a mile, you can hook up with the Green Bay Trail on the east side of the railroad tracks. The Green Bay Trail can take you north up to almost the state line, although there are several places where you must detour over the roads. The Green Bay Trail runs south to Wilmette, with a few sections running on local streets. The detours on the north section are pretty hairy if you're not used to riding in traffic with trucks. The detours on the south section are more suitable for family outings.
One note about the Chicago Botanic Gardens, which is actually part of the CCFPD, even though it's almost in Lake County. You can bike or walk through the grounds, but you can't rollerblade. Ha-ha, everybody hates rollerbladers on the trail. It's one thing the cyclists and runners can agree on. Also, if you bike, you must park your bike to actually tour the gardens. (Bikes are restricted to the maintenance road running on the east side of the gardens.)
A note on the Green Bay Trail. This trail runs along the Union Pacific (formerly Chicago and Northwestern) north line commuter tracks. Most of the trail is the former right-of-way of the North Shore electric line. This line used to run west from the el station in Wilmette across town, and then north along the C&NW tracks. I'm not sure how far north it ran, but it may have been all the way to Waukegan or Zion.
When the right-of-way was abandoned, some of it got converted to to bike path, some became commuter parking. Generally, near a station, its parking, meaning you must exit to the street for a ways. In Wilmette, the path leads through a couple of parks, but between Wilmette and Kenilworth, the right-of-way was offered for sale to homeowners. As a result, there's just a narrow path right along the commuter tracks. Some of the homeowners have bought the old right-of-way to make big back yards. Some haven't, leaving just a kind of swampy area with a lot of trees and scrubby vegetation. Out of about twelve houses, I think six have now bought the extra land. Another section goes every couple of years.
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