With 23 miles of flowing waterway, Nippersink Creek is the largest tributary to the Fox River. McHenry County Conservation District preserves 12 miles of the stretch. Nippersink Creek abounds with wildlife along the shore, in the air and under water. The slow current beckons paddlers to relax and unwind in the natural landscape along one of the highest quality streams in the area, and enjoy the many species that grace a visitor’s journey.
Paddle through restored prairies and wetlands that offer plenty of sunshine and expansive vistas. Look down into the clear waters to catch glimpses of any one of 40+ species of fish that travel through; and watch and listen for birds of all kinds, especially Red-winged blackbirds who perch on the plant stalks near the banks, or swallows that skim over the water catching bugs. Great blue herons and white egrets are plentiful while kingfishers may be spied nearby. Grassland birds like bobolinks and dicksissels hide in the prairie but if you listen closely you may hear their bubbling and buzzing calls. Muskrats are common but Nippersink Creek is also home to beavers, as well as reports of river otters.
Nippersink Creek is a wilderness getaway that provides excellent wildlife watching AND… It is never the same ride twice, so be sure to return often and in different seasons.
Paddlers can launch a canoe or kayak from four locations: Keystone Landing in Wonder Lake, Pioneer Road Landing in Ringwood, Lyle C. Thomas Memorial Park in Spring Grove or Nippersink Canoe Base in Fox Lake.
A perfect day trip for visitors of all ages is the seven mile stretch between Keystone Road and Pioneer Landings which lies nearly entirely within the boundaries of the wide-open, protected acres of Glacial Park. Within its winding banks the creek offers ideal places for wildlife to roam. From the Herons to the White Egrets, users of the waterway can spy turtles sunning upon the muddy banks, and fish jumping through the rippling water current.
An interpretive guide of the Nippersink Creek Canoe Trail complete with images, audio and text is available through the Prairie State Conservation Coalition Hiking app. The app features self-guided nature tours from around the state and is available for $.99 on both iOS and Android, download from iTunes App Store or Google Play.
For those less inclined to use their phones while on the water, here is a print version of the tour: A float down Nippersink Creek—Keystone Road Landing to Lyle C. Thomas Memorial Park.
In 2014 the US Army Core of Engineers restored a 3.5 mile section of Nippersink Creek. The eroded streambanks were transformed to more gentle slopes, riffles were added, brush, downed trees and non-native species were removed, while prairie, wetland species and additional oak trees were planted.
As work is completed, paddlers should witness an increase in wildlife sightings as birds, mammals and reptiles rediscover formerly inaccessible stream bank areas. The Nippersink Creek Project offers the promise of an even healthier stream capable of supporting not only a full array of aquatic biodiversity but also paddling and fishing memories for generations to come.
Learn More >> Banking on Nature: The Nippersink 206 Project
If a blockage along the creek is reported, the District will not close the launches.
Note: The Conservation District maintains and clears debris only where the District owns the land on both sides of the creek – ie. from Keystone Landing to just beyond Pioneer Landing – not the entire route. The District does not remove obstacles on/along private property. Downed trees or river debris can occur at anytime along the entire route and we cannot provide updated conditions.
15 Mile Water Trail
Nippersink Creek Float Guide
also available in the PSCC App!
Nippersink Canoe Trail
Richmond – Spring Grove
Sunrise to Sunset
Put In/Take Out – Launches
Keystone Road Landing
6500 Keystone Rd., Richmond
Pioneer Road Landing
7049 Pioneer Road, Richmond
Lyle C. Thomas Memorial Park
7816 Blivin St., Spring Grove
Nippersink Canoe Base
400 E US Highway 12, Spring Grove
Estimated travel time along the longest stretch from Keystone Road to Nippersink Canoe Base can be up to four hours, while other stretches are estimated as two-hour paddles. Canoeing is also permitted on the 22-acre Lake Atwood at the Hollows in Cary.
Check real – time water levels of Nippersink Creek The second graph of the USGS water levels, lists cubic feet per second; at least 100 cfs would allow for an enjoyable ride. When waters are moving above 300 cubic feet per second, it is considered fast.
When levels are above 750 cubic feet per second, or 7 feet, all launches will be CLOSED due to lack of clearance under two bridges. There is also a free water level app you can download for your android phone – Riverflows.net
All activities in this area are at the user’s own risk. It is up to the individual watercraft user to make a decision on whether or not to paddle the waterway given weather, water conditions, and skill level. A river has risks. There may be hazards and dangerous conditions. During low precipitation periods of drought or high waters after heavy rains, travel along Nippersink Creek is not advised.
Canoe & Kayak Rentals –
The District does not rent water craft.
Ed’s Rental, McHenry (815) 385-3232 (canoes & kayaks)
Tip-A-Canoe, Burlington Wi (262) 342-1012 (canoes & kayaks)
Main St. Outfitters, Wauconda (847) 526-7433 (kayaks only)
Scull and Oars, Wonder Lake (815) 790-4249