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Third annual Leinies Friendly Float down the Chicago River

Leinies Friendly Float

Third annual Leinies Friendly Float ends at Dick’s Last Resort

This past Saturday marked the third annual Leinenkugel or Leinies Friendly Float down the Chicago River. I am proud to say that I have taken part in all three adventures. It is something I look forward to each year as it is a fun canoe trip and party and for a great cause.

The Friendly Float is run to provide awareness to the plight of the Chicago River. The Chicago River was placed on the conservation group American Rivers top ten most endangered rivers two years ago, but has since been taken off. Most likely due to grass roots efforts like the canoe trip sponsored by Leinenkugels. Although the river is off the list, it does not mean it is clean and time to swim.

Leinies Friendly Float

John and Jake at the start of the Friendly Float

“The Chicago River has played a vital role in the history of this incredible city,” said Jake Leinenkugel, president of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company  based in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. “The annual ‘Friendly Float’ is a way to not only help our neighbors realize the significance of the river, but also spotlight the importance and value of preserving it for future generations.”

The event starts with registration at Dick’s Last Resort on Dearborn Street above from Marina City where the canoe trip ends. Leinenkugel’s provides a wonderful buffet breakfast replete with eggs, bacon, potatoes, fresh fruit, danishes, and coffee. You definitely want to carb up to energize yourself for the roughly five mile paddle.

Chicago River Friendly Float

Me and good friend Paul Ceisel at the beginning of the Friendly Float

We then loaded on to buses and headed down to Park 571 (S. Lock St. & W. Fuller St.) I met a Leinenkugel PR rep who said I was on the VIP bus. Sure enough, Jake, John, and Dick were on our bus. We received instruction on the way down from the beautiful Jessica from the Friends of the Chicago River.  Jessica forewarned us that there would be more commercial boat activity on the water as usual do to some party event.

The last two years we have done this same route from this south Chicago park up river to Dick’s. The first year we started at Rockwell north of the city and also finished at Dick’s. I liked this stretch a little better as the first couple of miles are fairly green with opportunities to see herons and kingfishers.

Willis Tower Chicago

Willis Tower comes into view as we pass under a bridge

The nice aspect of the southern route is you get outstanding unobstructed views of the skyline. As I was admiring the Willis Tower another paddler passed by and mentioned you do not get views like that from land. This is so true and you also do not get the same type of experience from a guided boat tour.

Willis Tower Chicago River

Cloud formations highlight the beauty of the City of Broad Shoulders as Jake and John paddle ahead

The boat tours are great but there is something about experiencing these views using your own resources to propel yourself forward. Since you do not go as fast as a motor boat, you also have more time to savor the experience.

The trip is not without hazards. Once you get farther north you start to get the water taxi and tour boat traffic. Waves are no big deal. You just need to make sure you angle the bow of the boat into the waves to lessen the chance of tipping. With cement shorelines the waves bounce right back and form with the rest of the waves creating a tricky dynamic. I enjoyed it though as it keeps you on your toes.

Chicago River Friendly Float

The Willis Tower is quite the canoeing landmark

Canoeing Chicago River

Downtown is getting closer as the Friendly Float winds down

Soon we passed the Merchandise Mart and the Marina Towers came into view signalling the end of another Friendly Float. Though the paddle had ended the party had just begun. We again were treated to another buffet of great food including wings, pulled pork sandwiches, bratwurst, and of course beer.

Leinies Friendly Float

As we pass the Merchandise Mart it looks like Paul needs a beer – soon my friend

Chicago River Friendly Float

Marina Towers signify the end of the paddling portion of the trip

Each paddler was given a bracelet with three drink tabs good for three beers. The weather was unseasonably mild and barely topped 70 degrees, which was quite a change from the heat wave conditions from last year. Weather definitely has not only an effect on the paddler, but also the kind of beer they drink. Last year I lapped up the summer shandies, which is the perfect beer for a hot summer day, but this year’s cooler conditions called for less sweet beers and several crisp and clean canoe paddlers and the heavier Leinie’s Red were just the ticket.

Leinenkugel's Brewery Friendly Float

Time for these two canoe paddlers to enjoy canoe paddler

I was introduced to Jake and thanked him once again for sponsoring such a fun event for such a great cause. There is more work to be done to clean the river and a paddle down the river will not alone do it; However, keeping the plight of our river in the conscience of the mainstream is the first step to protecting the main stream of Chicago. On behalf of Chicago, thanks Leinenkugel’s for thinking of the water quality of your southern neighbor’s most famous river.


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18 Responses to Third annual Leinies Friendly Float down the Chicago River

  1. Jenn July 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    Looks like great fun, and a really excellent cause. It’s nice to see big companies getting involved in these sorts of efforts in a real way. Glad to hear that the river has been taken off the list, but like you said, that doesn’t necessarily mean the work is over.

    • Ted Nelson July 29, 2013 at 7:06 pm #


      I agree with everything you said especially the part about corporate involvement in the environment. We need more of that and Leinenkugel’s is a great model for it.

  2. Leigh July 30, 2013 at 1:16 am #

    If I was in Chicago over this weekend I would me joining you on the water. I love it when good causes mix with some soft (or hard) adventure. Do you know how much money was raised – as I’m assuming, maybe wrongly that raising money would also be important. Or is this strictly about raising awareness?
    Leigh recently posted..Hiking in Kejimkujik National Park – The Seaside Edition

    • Ted Nelson July 31, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

      Strange as it sounds Leigh, this event is purely to raise awareness to the water quality of the Chicago River. I am sure Leinenkugel’s is donating money toward the cause, but I need to know more about what is going on.

  3. @mrsoaroundworld July 30, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    You wont believe this, but I would have LOVED to have done this!
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..A fab girls weekend in Los Cabos, Mexico

    • Ted Nelson July 31, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

      I think this is the perfect event for those who don’t usually seek adventure. You start with breakfast, paddle for two hours, and then have lunch and beers. I think anybody can paddle for a couple of hours when lunch and great beer is the carrot at the end of the stick.

  4. Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) July 31, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Really bummed I had to miss this year’s Friendly Float! Mark & I had such a good time last year and it would’ve been fun to hang out and drink beers with you again. Should we plan on it for next year?
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted..Traveling With a Large Family: Important Rules to Remember

    • Ted Nelson July 31, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

      I will be there for sure and hope you and Mark are as well.

  5. Anita Mac August 1, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    What a fun event for a great cause! More of a kayaker myself but would love to have paddled with everyone!
    Anita Mac recently posted..Teased by Cottage Country on Otter Lake with Sunny Point Resort and Cottages

    • Ted Nelson August 4, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

      They have a lot of kayak opportunities on the river, but this function was canoe only. Personally, I prefer a canoe, but I love to kayak too.

  6. thelazytravelers August 2, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    i had no idea that the chicago river was endangered! teaching us something new every day, tedward. looks like a fun day for a great cause. hope you had a beer for me!
    thelazytravelers recently posted..foodie break: il ristorante rosi nyc

    • Ted Nelson August 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      Scary thing is it has improved dramatically over the years. It used to be so bad that there were no or very few game fish like bass. Fish have gradually returned, but there is still work to be done as the river is still in pretty bad shape.

  7. Pola (@jettingaround) August 2, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    You can’t go wrong with Chicago’s skyline views and good company, followed by beer! 🙂

    • Ted Nelson August 4, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      Very true Pola. Canoe + Chicago skyline + beer = guaranteed good event. The math is simple.

  8. Erin at The World Wanderer August 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    Amazing photos, Ted! The views from the river are pretty unreal. Love the idea behind the event as well.
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted..Egypt’s Famous Dish: Koshari.

    • Ted Nelson August 4, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

      Thanks Erin. It was not a gorgeous day, but clouds make for more interesting pictures sometimes.

  9. lola dimarco August 4, 2013 at 1:23 am #

    People do need a reminder sometimes that we have to help conserve and take care of our environment! Looks like a great Saturday for you!
    lola dimarco recently posted..The Top 6 Florida Beaches

    • Ted Nelson August 4, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      With the Chicago River it seems there is a flurry of news reports and attention and then it disappears for months, so it is great that Leinenkugel hosts this yearly event to make sure it stays in people’s minds.

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