Skokie Lagoons Boathouse

rendering of a design for the new Skokie Lagoons Boathouse

The Forest Preserves is planning a new boathouse facility at the Skokie Lagoons to replace the existing temporary facility—a repurposed shipping container with no power or water. The future boathouse would allow for improved canoe and kayak rental, outdoor tables and seating, additional restrooms and other amenities as determined through the planning process. Public meetings will be planned for late summer and early fall for 2018. This web page will post the most current information for the project. Email with the subject line “Skokie Boathouse” to have your name added to the stakeholder list.

Stakeholder Meeting – July 2018

The Forest Preserves hosted a key stakeholder meeting on July 25, 2018 at the Chicago Botanic Garden to get feedback on the proposed boathouse at the Skokie Lagoons. Participants included local municipalities, site stewards, program partners, fishing coaches and others. The project consultant Muller & Muller gave an overview of their findings to date and then participants broke out into 4 working groups to provide additional feedback, contribute ideas and discuss building design. Two public meeting are being planned for later in 2018. Please contact  to get added to the project contact list and if you have any questions.

Skokie Lagoons Background

Originally one of the region’s largest and richest marshes, much of the area was drained by settlers for agriculture. In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) dug out the current lagoon system, in part to address flooding and increase recreational use. The massive effort was the largest CCC project in the nation.

With a public boat launch, lagoons stocked for fishing, paved and unpaved trails and picnic areas, this wooded preserve offers peaceful retreats and activities around every bend. Visitors can rent canoes and kayaks at the Tower Road entrance from May through October. The North Branch Trail travels the entire site of Skokie Lagoons, with a 4.4 mile loop at the north end, connecting visitors to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Skokie Lagoons provides critical habitat for migrating ducks, herons, cormorants, and a great variety of fishes including bluegill, sunfish and largemouth bass. Coyote, mink, gray and red fox have been spotted in the preserve.


  • North Branch Trail with access to the Chicago Botanic Garden; newly added benches, bike racks and wayfinding signage
  • Canoe & kayak rental from concessionaire; public boat launch
  • Two picnic shelters
  • No permanent public bathrooms or potable water

Planning Work at Skokie Lagoons

In 2015, the Forest Preserves identified Skokie Lagoons as one of 10 priority gateway sites as part of the Gateway Master Plan. Internal and external stakeholders met in 2016 to discuss how improvements to signage and wayfinding, visitor amenities and sense of place could help raise Skokie Lagoons’ profile and provide a more welcoming visitor experience. A focus group for Skokie Lagoons included participants from the Village of Glencoe, Village of Northfield, Village of Winnetka, Illinois Paddling Council, Chicago Canoe & Kayak, Friends of the Chicago River, Winnetka Park District, Forest Preserve Foundation, Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce, Forest Preserves and the Lakota Group (Gateway project consultant), along with residents and stewards. Desired improvements that were suggested by the participants included:

  • Adding additional boat launches and improved portages
  • Formalizing vehicular and bike parking along Forest Way Drive
  • Improved bike trail wayfinding to the Green Bay and North Branch Trails
  • Building electronic applications that provide wayfinding and interpretation information
  • Implementation of interpretive signs or art for wayfinding that also convey information about the ecology and history of the site
  • Construction of a facility/pavilion with bathrooms, storage space and covered space for outdoor education

The Skokie Lagoons 2016 Master Plan was designed from the input of the focus group, staff planning sessions and feedback from key stakeholders.