Help Share the Joy of the River as a Volunteer Canoe Guide

Friends’ Volunteer, Events, and Canoe Program Manager Annette Anderson (center) with canoe guides (left to right) John Slivka, David Stang, Dara Griffith, and Sean O'Leary.

Paddling the river is one of the best, most immersive ways we introduce people to the beauty and wildlife of the river system and the importance of restoring its health. First-time paddlers often become longtime river advocates after seeing the turtles, birds and mink that utilize river system for habitat, connecting to the river’s place in our history, and understanding its role as an important natural resource for our future. Volunteer canoe guides are critical to making this impactful experience happen.

Apply Now

You can help us share the joy of paddling the river system by becoming a volunteer canoe guide. Submit an application and return it before our first training date February 11. You can also learn more on our website about volunteer opportunities with our Chicago River Eco-Warriors (CREW) program, or follow CREW on Facebook.

“Our amazing volunteer canoe guides and boat haulers make our fun and educational canoe program possible,” said Friends’ Volunteer, Events, and Canoe Program Manager Annette Anderson. “Our guides introduce people to the natural wonders of the river and to stewardship events like paddle and plants, and canoe and cleans. They play a critical role in carrying out our mission by creating equitable opportunities for people to connect to the river; fostering ways we can work together to make long-term, positive changes to protect it.”

The 2023 canoe season starts in the spring and runs through October. Friends takes out beginner and experienced paddlers all along the river system in the least explored places. We host educational field trips for schools and moonlight paddles, and we collaborate with partners to develop water trails; many trips are dedicated to immediately improving the health of the river by cleaning up litter from the water and planting native aquatic plants, which expand into lush colonies, reduce erosion, and filter the water. This past season, 64 volunteer canoe guides –including 16 new guides – supported 43 on the water events. These devoted volunteers bring out more people to connect with the river and have an incredible impact as 80% of canoe program guests report that they plan to take action to help the river.

Friends is also available for custom trips for groups of 10 or more out on the river at a variety of locations along the Chicago River system. No experience is necessary for our paddles events — our fun, knowledgeable guides provide safety and paddling instruction plus all of the necessary equipment. To schedule an event contact Annette Anderson at