The nonprofit conservation organization Openlands is hosting guided paddling trips through the African American Heritage Water Trail on the Far South Side as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations.
Water trails specialist Lilli Holden said it’s a great way to experience how Black history and nature intersect.
“The African American Heritage Water Trail encompasses at least 180 years’ worth of history ranging from the Underground Railroad to the environmental justice movement to the civil rights movement,” Holden said. “American history glosses over the history of Black and Brown people. And so I think that the water trail does a great job of showcasing history that’s been erased.”
Each 90-minute paddle session will traverse parts of the Little Calumet River and the Cal-Sag Channel. The June 10 and 11 tours will begin at Beaubien Woods Boat Launch in Chicago and the June 12 tours will begin at the Little Calumet Boat Launch in Blue Island. The event is free and open to all, including families with children, but registration is required.
“Canoeing along the Little Calumet River can, for some people, be a very healing event,” Holden said. “… People feel some serenity and portions of healing out of nature and health and wellness while outdoors.”